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Texas Senate budget proposal prioritizes mental health services, juvenile justice, and education funding

The Texas Senate has recently approved a $308 billion spending proposal for the upcoming two years, indicating an increase in funding for numerous public services, such as mental health, juvenile justice, property tax cuts, community colleges, and pay raises for teachers and state employees, according to Dallas Metro News.

The proposed budget for the 2024-25 cycle encompasses $142.1 billion in general revenue spending, which is nearly $5 billion higher than the proposal recently passed by the Texas House.

Despite having a record-breaking surplus of $32.7 billion this session, lawmakers do not plan to utilize the entire amount, nor do they intend to exceed constitutional spending limits. The Senate budget bill incorporates $5 billion in additional funds for schools, including teacher pay raises and other educational programs. It also includes expenses associated with parents receiving private school subsidies.

Moreover, the bill allocates $3.7 billion to adjust cost-of-living for retired teachers, $650 million for initiatives to strengthen security in schools, and $650 million for revamping community college funding. The budget plan also dedicates $1 billion for water projects, and promises to fund electricity grid-related legislation with $10 billion. An amount of $16.5 billion has been reserved for property tax cuts, and $4.6 billion for border security, including over $1 billion for Gov. Greg Abbott’s border accession programs.

The Senate Finance Committee endorsed the budget plan by a unanimous vote of 16-0 and passed it to the Senate floor for further debate, which is slated to happen next week. The Senate version includes $900 million in new funding for mental health care, $2.3 billion to increase base wages for personal care community attendants who help patients with tasks like laundry or errands, and $1.8 billion for state employee pay raises. The bill also has $370 million more in funding to address concerns at the Texas Juvenile Justice Department due to understaffing.

Senate budget writers have also approved $500 million to support the redevelopment of parks, $500 million for broadband development, $500 million for Gulf Coast protection programs, and $600 million for port and ship channel funds and projects.

The Senate version differs from the Texas House bill in several areas, including the absence of the $10 billion grid legislation funding from the Texas House bill. Additionally, the Senate committee declined to commit $1 billion in funding requested by colleges and universities to allow them to freeze tuition for two years. In contrast, the House committee version has that funding in it, setting up a tuition freeze showdown during future negotiations. The House version spends around $137 billion in general revenue and $306 billion in all state and federal funds.

Senators briefly clashed over a rider in the budget bill that forbids universities from receiving funds if they use diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) practices in their hiring processes. Senator Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, who authored the rider, responded to Senator Royce West, D-Dallas, stating that the language pertains to personnel and hiring. West plans to fight the rider on the Senate floor during debate and is seeking clarity from Creighton on what would not be permitted under the rider.

The approval of this proposed budget is a significant step forward in providing much-needed support to various sectors of the Texas public system. The upcoming negotiations between the two chambers are expected later this month, and it is hoped that they will be successful in ensuring the equitable distribution of the available funds.

Jordan Collins

Jordan is an experienced editor with years in the journalism and reporting industry. He loves talking with the community about the problems local residents face and state politics. You can find him in the gym almost every day or see him jogging.

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