Texas House committee backs budget plan with extra $9 billion for school finance, property tax reform

Texas Tribune Blue Government News

House Appropriations Chair John Zerwas is shown during a 2018 interview with The Texas Tribune.
House Appropriations Chair John Zerwas is shown during a 2018 interview with The Texas Tribune.
Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

A panel of House budget writers gave initial approval Monday to a budget that would spend $115 billion in state funds, including a $9 billion infusion of new funds for Texas public schools and property tax relief.

Now that the House Appropriations Committee has approved the 2020-21 spending plan, House Bill 1, the legislation moves to the floor of the 150-member House.

“I believe that we can all be very proud of the bill that you’ve all worked so hard on,” state Rep. John Zerwas, a Richmond Republican and the chamber’s chief budget writer, told fellow House Appropriations Committee members.

State Rep. Matt Schaefer, R-Tyler, was the committee’s lone no vote.

The budget plan would spend $2 billion from the state’s savings account, known as the Economic Stabilization Fund, which currently holds more than $11 billion.

The total two-year budget would spend state, federal and local funds totaling about $250 billion. After considering a limit imposed by the Texas Constitution, House lawmakers left about $500 million on the table, according to testimony from the Legislative Budget Board.

Among the highlights of the House’s spending plan are:

  • $9 billion in new state funding for K-12 education and property tax relief, contingent on lawmakers passing reforms to the way the state funds public schools. The budget does not dictate the breakdown of those funds, but a bill backed by Speaker Dennis Bonnen would give about $6 billion to school districts and use the remaining $3 billion to pay for a reduction in local school district property taxes.

  • A $2.8 billion increase in state and federal funds for health and human services above what the House proposed in January. That includes a $25 million increase for early childhood intervention services, $6.7 million to reduce caseloads for Adult Protective Services workers, $31 million to expand capacity at local mental health clinics for low-income Texans and $87 million to raise the pay of personal attendants, who care for the elderly and disabled, by about 10 cents an hour.

  • A $168 million expenditure to give some Texas prison guards and parole officers a pay raise.