Senate Approves Final 2002-2003 Budget Bill
AUSTIN - The Senate today unanimously voted to approve a $113.8 billion state budget for the 2002-2003 biennium, an 11.6 percent increase over the 2000-2001 figure.
Houston Sen. Rodney Ellis said the Committee Substitute for Senate Bill (CSSB) 1, the General Appropriations Bill that contains the budget, takes into account essential appropriations needs.
"Four priorities were laid out by the members of the Senate, not necessarily in this order, but four key priorities were given to the Finance Committee and the conference committee members," said Ellis, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee, "health and human services, state employee pay, public education and school employee health insurance, and higher education, particularly our commitment to the TEXAS Grant program."
Health and human services programs receive an appropriation of more than $34.9 billion, or 30.8 percent of the budget. The money will go to funding services such as Medicaid, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and maintaining current services.
The budget includes a 4 percent or $100 minimum raise for all state employees and non-faculty higher education employees who have at least one year of service. The budget also makes an appropriation of $78.4 million for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to continue pay increases.
Public education accounts for $23.2 billion of the budget, including dedicated funding for a public school teacher and employee health insurance plan. The allotment also provides for increases in public school facilities funding.
The budget dedicates $13.4 billion to higher education, including $71.7 million to fund enrollment increases, $33.7 million for research and $110.6 million earmarked for health-related institutions. The TEXAS Grant program will be expanded from 11,000 grants to almost 100,000.
Funding for the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Workforce Commission is also increased.
"This budget meets the basic needs of a growing Texas while making significant investments in our families," Ellis said. "We have made a strong down payment for Texas' future."
Also in today's session, the Senate adopted a resolution sponsored by Fort Worth Sen. Mike Moncrief honoring the contributions of Dr. Patricia R. Cole, a longtime advocate for women's and family health issues. Cole was former Gov. Ann Richards' health and human services policy director and has represented the Communities in Schools program and the Texas Council on Family Violence.
The Senate stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Friday.