House discusses proposed budget

After 15 hours, the Texas House of Representatives continued their debate over a proposed $218.15 billion budget, which was expected to last until the early hours of Friday morning.

Last Tuesday, the Texas Senate unanimously passed a $217.7 billion budget for the next two years. The House took up their budget and all of its 400 proposed amendments Thursday. Upon House approval of its version of the budget, appointed members of both chambers will meet in a joint committee to reach agreement and finalize the budget.

Both the Senate and House allocated approximately $20 billion to higher education in their proposed budgets. The House’s budget provides $3.4 billion in general revenue funds for basic operational costs at public institutions, which is a $47.3 million decrease compared to the 2016-17 budget. 

The Senate budget avoids tapping the $10.2 billion savings account, known as the Rainy Day Fund. Traditionally, using Rainy Day money has been opposed in the Senate, but members of the House seem more open to the idea. The proposed House budget would use $2.5 billion dollars during the 2018-19 budget. After using this amount, the fund, officially named the Economic Stabilization Fund, is forecast to have a remaining balance of $9.3 billion. 

After the House initially proposed their budget in January, Speaker of the House Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said the budget prioritizes public education, child protective services and mental health care. 

“The House will have a productive debate about where to go from here,” Straus said in a statement from January. “I’m confident that the end product will put more dollars in the classroom, protect children and keep this state on sound fiscal footing.”

Several representatives used the House budget discussion as a platform to propose amendments about this year’s most talked-about issues, including the “bathroom bill” and abortions. Known as “riders,” these amendments are often used to stall legislation or keep a bill from passing. 

As the only piece of legislation required to pass this session, senators and representatives will need to agree on a budget. If they can’t settle their differences by May 29 at midnight, Gov. Greg Abbott will have to call a special session, which will hold legislators at the Capitol for up to an additional 30 days.