State lawmakers add and subtract on the state's premier budget document

Posted April 09, 2017

State Representatives pre-filed more than 400 amendments to the House budget proposal that tackle some of the most proactive political issues.

In the first of three roll call votes, the budget proposed by the House Finance Committee failed by a vote of 220 to 134.

Those committee members will determine the final version of the budget by reconciling differences in the House and Senate versions before it is signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The Texas House has voted to oppose taxpayer dollars going to private and religious schools - expressly forbidding state funding for vouchers. "I would hope that we would still have an opportunity to have those discussions".

On the winning side of the House budget debate were child welfare advocates, who saw funding for foster care and Child Protective Services tentatively boosted; social conservatives, who scored $20 million for the Alternatives to Abortion program; and the lieutenants of House Speaker Joe Straus' leadership team who, in a display of unity, easily brushed aside most challenges from far-right Republicans.

The amendments, offered by Republicans, provide funding to develop a curriculum in state schools to help prevent sexual abuse of children and requires the Department of Health to develop programming to reduce the likelihood of child sexual assault.

A prolonged oil slump has left lawmakers about $6 billion short of the money needed to keep the status quo in Texas, which attracts about a million new residents every two years.

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Freedom Caucus leaders wanted up to $200 million in additional cuts, Jasper said, but offered no specific recommendations except to eliminate a plan to send $50 million to cities and towns over the next two years for property-tax relief. Transgender bathroom access, border security, and abortion are all in the budget. One even proposed tacking onto a $218 billion spending bill a prohibition against using state funds on Trump's border wall.

Republicans control the Texas House and Senate.

When asked about that specific proposal, Zerwas said, "We'll treat it just like any other amendment, it will be brought up, it will be debated and it will be voted on".

"Like Senator Nelson likes to say, and I like to also say, everything's on the table when we come together", said Zerwas.

"Good-bye SB3", Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston, said from his desk after the vote, referring to Senate Bill 3 which passed the Senate last month 18-13.

"You can cut and cut but at some point you start amputating", Zerwas said. Both are hot-button issues that have dominated the House's budget negotiations during this legislative session. State Rep. John Zerwas, R-Richmond, thanked lawmakers for exhibiting "true leadership" with their willingness to tap the fund, "instead of electing to use an unconstitutional transfer from the transportation funding".

But ultimately Rep. Herrero says the bill would divert state funds away from public schools and that is not something a majority of House members are willing to support this session.