FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 26, 2001
The Senate Finance Committee today (Monday) unanimously approved the Senate's version of the state budget, Senate Bill 1 by Senators Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, et al. "The $111.7 billion budget meets Texas' basic needs while providing substantial increases for key priorities such as health and human services, financial aid and college and state employee pay, without raising taxes," said Sen. Zaffirini, a member of the 13-person committee.
The committee increased funding $3.1 billion over the initial budget proposal filed in January, which represents a $9.8 billion increase (9.2 percent) over the adjusted budget for FY 2000-01. The majority of the new funding is dedicated to health and human services (51 percent) and education (27 percent ). The $9.8 billion increased funding is needed to cover state government cost increases due to Texas' rapidly-growing population and rising health care costs and to fund key priorities established by the committee. The majority of this growth comes from other funds, such as federal funds, rather than state coffers.
"The Article II Workgroup that covers Health and Human Services, which I chaired, worked tirelessly to fund the needs of Texans," said Sen. Zaffirini. "With more than $2.5 billion in additional general revenue requests, we did our best in this tight budget season and secured an increase of $1.9 billion over the FY 2000-01 base." Sen. Zaffirini added that the Finance Committee also increased education spending by $2.7 billion over last biennium. "I am delighted that we funded increases in education and health and human services issues, two of my top priorities," Sen. Zaffirini said.
Overall, the 2002-03 appropriations bill includes $4.9 billion in all funds more for health and human services programs, $380 million more for the TEXAS Grant Program and $787 million for state employee pay raises. For public education, SB 1 earmarks $200 million as a starting point for teachers' health insurance, with the goal of adding an additional $1.9 billion from all funding sources. The Senate Education Committee, of which Sen. Zaffirini is vice chair, and the House Select Committee on Teacher's Health Insurance are studying several proposals that would provide health insurance to Texas school employees.
SB 1 also provides $1.205 billion in equity funding to help local school districts fund public education. The plan raises Equalized Wealth limits from the current $295,000 to $300,000 in FY 02 and $305,000 in FY 03, raises Basic Allotment from the current $2,537 to $2,567 in FY 02 and $2,597 in FY 03, and raises Guaranteed Yield from the current $24.99 to $25.90 in FY 02 and $26.75 in FY 03. SB 1 also includes $245 million for Facilities, to cover existing debt at school districts issued prior to 2000 from 12 to 29 cents.
Other key initiatives include:
- $961 million increase in federal funds for the Texas Department of Transportation for road construction and other projects.
- $523 million earmarked for Medicaid prescription drug and program cost increases and caseload growth.
- $30 million to fund President George W. Bush's and Governor Rick Perry's Math and Reading Initiatives.
- $2.3 million increase to the Office of Attorney General to hire additional employees to improve child support enforcement.
Medicaid proposals and reforms, including rate increases and streamlining eligibility for children, will be incorporated next month. "The Joint Medicaid Workgroup, a special joint Senate-House taskforce reviewing proposals to improve the program, will make recommendations to cover the estimated 600,000 eligible children who are not served by Medicaid," added Sen. Zaffirini, Senate chair. In November she filed SB 43, the Medicaid Simplification Act, which is pending in the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services.
SB 1 must be passed by the Texas Senate and by the House of Representatives before being sent to a conference committee, where five senators and five representatives will reconcile the Senate and House versions of the state budget.