State Budget
3:30 pm
Tue May 14, 2013

Committee Still Debating Spending Issues In State Budget Bill

Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, a house leader on the Legislative Budget Board, said the joint committee has hit snags in several areas, but has reached a tentative agreement on some key spending issues in regard to Senate Bill 1, the state budget bill.

"Hopefully we will have an agreement sometime today on public education," Pitts said, adding that they were discussing $3.2 billion for public education would be taken from the state general revenue and property tax appraisals.

Outside of the budget bill, Pitts said the senate joint resolution authored by Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, has been stripped down to just one infrastructure need.

"The SJR will have a hearing probably tomorrow or the next day and you will just see water," Pitts said.

That SJR would leave $2 billion for state water needs that voters will have a chance to vote on this Fall.

When it comes to funding transportation, Pitts said there are still several legislative lanes available and said he expects to have everything wrapped up with the budget bill by the end of the week.

Health Care also stalling budget talks

Williams, who is the chair of the Senate Finance Committee and is also on the Legislative Budget Board, said no progress can be made until both sides can agree on health and education components.  

"The big unresolved issue is Medicaid cost growth. The House didn’t have anything in there, we have $800 million and we are waiting on for the last update on caseloads because all of that influences how big that number is going forward," Williams said.

On the subject of Medicaid, Williams said he’d like to see a complete reform of the system, which is another sticking point for the passage of the budget bill.

"This is an important social safety net, but we have to do at a price that our taxpayers can afford to pay. My concern is that support for the program is going to erode over time because the costs are just out of control and they are crowding out every other piece of the budget," Williams said, which includes state funds for public education.

Part of that push to reform Medicaid has been added by Williams as a rider to the budget bill to create a "Texas Solution" by directing the state's health and human service commissioner to establish an efficient health care system and continue seeking waivers from the federal government.