The 15 members of the Senate Finance Committee unanimously voted on Wednesday for a $195.5 billion two-year budget that undoes some of the cuts from the 2011 legislative session.
The budget, which now heads to the full Senate, is 2.9 percent higher than the estimated size of the current two-year budget, which is $189.9 billion after factoring in extra spending lawmakers are expected to approve later this session.
Senate Bill 1 spends $94.1 billion in general revenue, the portion of the budget lawmakers have the most control over. That’s an extra $6.7 billion over the current budget, a 7.7 percent increase.
“These decisions are never easy,” said Senate Finance Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands. “There aren’t any of us that got everything they wanted but I think we came up with a good work product given the budget constraints that we have.”
The committee added about $8.9 billion more than the base budget it released in January. SB 1 now includes an extra $1.4 billion for public schools, $746 million for higher education and $207 million for Child Protective Services.
Williams said the extra money for schools should support the state’s case in an ongoing school finance lawsuit.
The House Appropriations Committee added a smidgeon more for education, though obviously it’s still well short of what it was before the cuts of 2011. This budget isn’t as bad as it could be, but it isn’t as good as it could be, either.
Senators in charge of the various workgroups for the budget wanted to add $8.1 billion in General Revenue to the starting-point SB 1’s $88.9 billion, for a total of $97 billion allocated to schools, public universities and community colleges, health and human services, public safety, and other basic state functions. This $97 billion was also the amount estimated to be the bare minimum needed to pay for population and cost growth in the next two years while leaving most of the 2011 budget cuts in place. Instead, the $94 billion in CSSB 1 is $3 billion below that “bare bones” current services line, meaning $3 billion (3%) more in cuts to current services. These cuts could still be avoided if House and Senate budget-writers are willing to use remaining General Revenue and the Rainy Day Fund.
There are still a lot of things that aren’t being funded; click the link above to see more, including the explanation for that embedded chart. We have the means to do the things that need to be done, but we don’t have the will.