Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Budget bill to use rainy day fund: "It's raining" says Committee Chair

The House budget bills, HB 1- the main budget and HB 10- the supplemental budget, were passed out of the Appropriations Committee last night, and they will be heard on the House floor next Wednesday.

The Austin American-Statesman reports that $600 million from the rainy day fund would flow into HB 1, and HB 10 draws on $1.3 billion in "rainy day" money to pay for needs including Child Protective Services, textbooks, Medicaid and CHIP. Appropriations Chair Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) stated "It is raining. We have some needs."

HB 1 allocates $1.5 billion less than SB 1, the Senate' budget proposal. Some of the differences between the $137.5 billion House plan and $139 billion Senate plan are (from the same AAS article):

  • The House plan also calls for a 3.2 percent increase in spending on higher education, less than the 8 percent approved by the Senate.

  • Public schools would reap 15 percent more, counting state and federal aid, and health and human services spending would rise 10 percent. Business and economic development aid would increase 18 percent.

  • The House budget calls for a 3 percent pay raise for state workers but doesn't include the money for it, falling far short of the two yearly 4.5 percent raises approved by the Senate.

  • Like the Senate approach, the House plan restores eye care and dental benefits for participants in the Children's Health Insurance Program and maintains the partial restoration of mental health benefits put in place last year. It does not, however, restore any of the optional Medicaid services for adults, such as hearing aids and mental health counseling, that the Senate backed.

  • The House plan includes $3 billion in additional public education spending, assuming lawmakers approve a version of the school finance plan endorsed earlier this month by the House. The Senate budget funded public education but left specifics to its Education Committee.


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