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Senate Finance Committee holds first public hearing on the state budget

Teach the Vote
Teach the Vote

School Finance Texas Legislature

Date Posted: 2/08/2021 | Author: Monty Exter

Today marked the first day the 87th Texas Legislature began its public work on the only bill they must pass per the Texas constitution – the state budget.

The House and the Senate take turns every two years on which chamber will introduce the budget bill. In 2019, the 86th Legislature passed the budget via House Bill 1. For 2021, the two-year state budget will be contained in a Senate bill, although both chambers have shared their respective proposals for what that bill should include.

Sen. Jane Nelson addresses the Senate Finance Committee, Feb. 8, 2021This morning the Senate Finance Committee held the first public hearing on Senate Bill 1, and public education was certainly one highlight of the meeting. In closing remarks, Committee Chair Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) laid out her priorities for the budget this session. Priority one was fully funding House Bill 3, the school finance legislation passed last session. This was followed by providing the resources to defeat COVID-19, reigniting the Texas economy, and strengthening public safety. Chair Nelson also shared that she had distributed a budget priorities questionnaire to her follow senators and that every one of the 30 other senators had also listed maintaining public education funding as their number one budget goal this session.

The House and Senate budget writers are tasked with making up the difference between their draft budgets which propose just under $120 billion in discretionary spending and the slightly more than $112 billion they have available to spend, according to the State Comptroller. Between accounting tools, federal relief, and the Economic Stabilization Fund (a/k/a the “Rainy Day Fund”), lawmakers have ample dollars and tools to bridge the gap. But they will have to work together to decide the best way to provide the resources schools, students, and all Texans need to get back on track after the year 2020, including the difficult 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years.

The Senate Finance Committee will begin its work in earnest tomorrow with the first of three weeks of marathon hearings. The committee will hear testimony from state agencies’ staff and the public regarding the various topical sections of the budget known as articles. Article III, which includes the budget for public education, higher education, and the Teacher Retirement System (TRS), is scheduled to be discussed at committee hearings later this month. The committee will hear from the Texas Education Agency and TRS beginning Monday, February 22, and wrapping up the testimony Wednesday, February 24.

Stay tuned here on Teach the Vote for the latest news related to education and the Texas Legislature.


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