House, Senate continue to move closer to passing budget
Last week, with 60 days remaining until the end of the 140-day regular session of the 86th Texas Legislature, the House and Senate vaulted closer toward finalizing a state budget. On March 27, the House of Representatives voted 149-0 in favor of HB 1, its version of the state budget for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The lower chamber’s bill allocates some $251 billion to cover the two years and puts $9 billion more than the current budget into education reform, including a teacher pay increase and pension funding, and property tax reform.SB 1, the Senate’s version of the state budget, is scheduled for more early-April hearings in the Senate Finance Committee before coming to a Senate floor vote.
SB 1, like HB 1, presently contains some $9 billion for education reform and a property tax break. Since mid-January, the committee chaired by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, heard more than 750 witnesses present public testimony in 25 meetings, helping members craft a bill that totals more than 1,000 pages. Nelson broke down the $9 billion as follows: — Almost $4 billion for an acrossthe-board teacher pay raise of $5,000; — $2.3 billion in additional money for non-salary public education reform; and — $2.7 billion for property tax relief.SB 1 is expected to pass soon in the Senate, and should it do so, a conference committee of House and Senate members must meet to reconcile differences in the two versions of the state budget. Nelson and four other senators appointed by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, along with House Appropriations Committee Chair John Zerwas, R-Richmond, and four House members appointed by Speaker Dennis Bonnen, will make up the conference committee.
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