Texas House Approves $218 Billion Budget after 15-hour Debate
The Texas House has approved a $218 billion state budget that includes tapping the Rainy Day Fund and nixing state money for vouchers. The vote to pass the budget came about 1:30am. Lawmakers approved it 131-16. The House must now work with the Senate to negotiate their many differences.
WATCH what happened while you were sleeping – House Approves Budget.
An attempt to end in-state tuition for undocumented immigrant students was defeated in the Texas House late Thursday.
Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, offered an amendment to prevent Texas colleges and universities from offering in-state tuition rates to unauthorized students. But Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, raised an objection and the House parliamentarian eventually decided Stickland’s measure went against the rules.
A debate over a controversial abortion-related amendment passed the House 93-52 during Thursday’s budget debate. The added measure means $20 million will be taken from the state’s environmental agency to be funneled to an “Alternative to Abortion” program that counsels low-income, pregnant women. Republicans argued the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality had received extra funding it wouldn’t miss.
House Democrats unsuccessfully tried to take dollars earmarked for the state’s $800 million border security operation and put it toward other programs they say are underfunded. The state’s budget shortfall has left lawmakers proposing cuts to colleges and Medicaid, but Republicans have largely untouched the costly operation for hundreds of state troopers on the Texas-Mexico border.
At the beginning of the session, many Republican lawmakers said they would consider pulling back that funding if President Donald Trump made good on his promise to secure the border. But without consistent action, state lawmakers say they will continue to keep state operations in place.
A prolonged oil slump and decisions made last session have left lawmakers with less money to spend in the new budget.
(the AP contributed to this update)
House lawmakers have voted to restore some funding to a Medicaid program providing therapy for disabled children. Last session, lawmakers cut $350 million from the program, sparking outrage among parents whose children receive the services.
Thursday, House members got the extra funding by taking $43 million from the controversial Texas Enterprise Fund. That’s overseen by the governor and used to attract job-creating firms to the state. The approved amendment would divide the fund’s money between Child Protective Services and foster care funding and the therapy program for disabled children. The funding could still be removed as lawmakers continue to hash out the budget between both chambers.
But the move to strip the money from the Enterprise Fund ignited a clash in the chamber. Tea party members, who have also been against the Enterprise Fund, were critical of the way the amendment was passed. It was done so without a roll call vote
Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, took to the microphone to criticize the body over what he called deceptive parliamentary maneuvers. He said lawmakers were using “sneaky” moves to avoid difficult votes.
“The people back home…have a right and an expectation to know where every single one of us stand on every single issue,” Rep. Stickland said.
Texas House lawmakers have begun what’s historically been a marathon budget debate that lasts into the wee hours of the next morning. The budget bill is the only piece of legislation lawmakers must pass each session. The Senate unanimously approved its version last month. House members are now taking up a $218 billion, two-year budget.
One key issue in Thursday’s debate is whether to tap the state’s rainy day fund. Lawmakers have less money this session, so the House budget uses $2.5 billion from the more than $10 billion reserve. Chief House budget writer, Chairman John Zerwas R-Richmond, has said he’s confident he has the vote of two-thirds of legislators needed to tap into the fund.
More than 400 amendments have been filed to try to tweak the budget. Several have already stirred controversy during Thursday’s debate.
The House overwhelmingly voted to ban the state from spending money on so-called “school choice” programs that allow public money to be spent on private school tuition. While it’s been a top priority of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, the House has been less enthusiastic. The 103-44 vote Thursday was significant because it showed where the lower chamber stands on the likelihood of the state adopting a voucher system.
Other amendments being debated include several targeting the transgender community, border wall funding and even a state travel ban to California.
*This post will be updated throughout the day.
Tune to Capital Tonight at 7pm for the latest on the budget debate, plus analysis from Democrat Harold Cook and Republican Ted Delisi and former lawmaker Sherri Greenberg.
Posted by Karina Kling
|Print article||This entry was posted by kkling on April 6, 2017 at 12:40 pm, and is filed under Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.|