The Kentucky Derby won’t run until May but the 85th Texas Legislature is in their own version of the home stretch.
The only thing they must do in the final 50 days, per the Texas Constitution, is pass a state budget to fund state government for the next 2 years, and it must be balanced. I.e. no spending outside what projected revenue (State Comptroller, Glen Hegar, does the projecting) will allow.
The Texas Senate passed their version of the budget 10 days ago; the House of Representatives, late last week. The House budget spends just under $ 1B more than the Senate. The difference will be negotiated.
Here’s what’s important. Because we have less money to spend than 2 years ago, lawmakers have a difficult task in deciding where to allocate the money from among those things a government needs to function — education, social and other public services, infrastructure, and maintaining a healthy economy, to name a few.
The business community is generally agreed on a few key areas:
- There can be no better investment in our future than making sure our students are prepared to enter the job market. Cuts to public and higher education are short-sighted and damaging to our long-term economic health. Right now, funding for higher education has been cut by 6-10%. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and education becomes a priority funding item.
- The same is true in workforce skills training; our increasingly diverse economy requires training our citizens in high-growth STEM areas, graduate careers and college-readiness programs. A tax credit for employers who hire apprentices so they can learn a trade or a specialized skill is also being considered.
What else needs to happen?
- The Texas Enterprise Fund attracts big job-creating projects like Toyota, Apple, Chevron, and Samsung and needs $ 100M, as Governor Abbott has requested.
- The Governor’s University Research Initiative attracts top-flight academic talent to our state; it needs $ 40M. Stanford University was a catalyst for what we now know as Silicon Valley. Texas needs the brightest minds and innovators to replicate that dynamic job-creating machine right here at home.
- Our Film Incentive Program needs $ 60M. Texas directors are filming big budget movies in neighboring states that are out-competing us. That needs to change. The return on that investment is estimated at 5:1.
And remember. We have about $ 10B in our so-called ‘Rainy Day’ fund, more than 3x the amount held by any other state. With the price of oil being where it’s been the last few years, state revenue has suffered. It’s time to spend some — not all – of that money on important programs, starting with education.
The House budget does spend $ 2.5B of Rainy Day money. The Senate budget doesn’t touch that fund.
The corresponding radio broadcast on this topic is here, sponsored by Dell: https://texasbusinessradio.com/blog/texas-legislative-update-3/
The Legislature adjourns ‘sine die’ — a Latin term that literally translates to ‘without a day’ or, if you’re more layman than Latin “we’re done” — on Memorial Day.
Call your State Representative and Senator today and let them know where you stand. If you don’t know who they are, go here to find out http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/.
It may be a photo finish: