AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After months of deliberations and hours of debate on the House floor, the Texas House of Representatives on Thursday night passed a $302.7 billion budget to fund the state of the next two years.
Of that sum, about $137 billion comes from the state’s general revenue. Much of the rest comes from federal funding. This biennium, Texas has a record budget surplus of $33 billion left over from the last budget.
The House budget allocates almost half of the state’s general revenue to public education, with a record $60.3 billion. That’s a $5 billion increase and gives the state responsibility for more than half of all public education funding.
“If you vote against this budget, you are voting against the largest increase in state funding for the Foundation School Program in Texas history,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Greg Bonnen said.
The House also sets aside $17.3 billion to slow the rise of property taxes. The budget bill includes provisions to cap the appraisal value of all property to ten percent year-over-year and buy down school district property tax rates at 25 cents per dollar.
The appraisal cap provision is certain to face opposition in the Senate. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is instead supporting a homestead exemption increase to slow property tax hikes.
Another one of the Lieutenant Governor’s top priorities, however, did find significant funding in the House budget. House Bill 1 dedicates $9.6 billion to mental health resources like inpatient services in state hospitals and substance abuse treatment for prisoners and veterans.
The House also spends $4.6 billion on border security efforts like Operation Lone Star, including $1 billion for the Governor’s Office alone. The Texas Military Department will receive $2.2 billion.
Even with an unprecedented abundance of cash, however, not everyone got what they wanted.
At times, tense moments on the House floor highlighted disagreements between Republican and Democratic leaders. Before the House failed a Democratic amendment to increase teacher pay by $10,000, Democratic Caucus Chair Trey Martinez-Fischer and Frisco Republican Jared Patterson pressed each other on their support for teachers.
“Will you sign it?” Martinez-Fischer asked Patterson about the Republican’s rhetorical proposal for a $30,000 teacher pay raise.
“No, we’ll just vote it down. Thank you, have a good day,” Patterson responded.
“Thank you for not caring about teachers,” Martinez-Fischer said.
Education is certain to be one of the most contentious sticking points when the Senate has its turn to mark up the budget. Most notably, the Senate will push to remove a provision in the House budget which prohibits the state from funding education savings accounts, a priority of the Governor and the upper chamber.
That debate will enter its next phase in the House when Rep. James Frank’s bill to create education savings accounts has a hearing in the House Public Education Committee on Tuesday.