Each regular legislative session the legislature is required to develop and pass the state's operating budget for the next two years. This week the Texas Senate passed Senate Bill 1, the general appropriations act for the 2014-2015 biennium, or the two-year state budget. The total balanced budget of $195.5 billion represents an increase over the previous two years' budget of less than the growth in the state's population plus inflation during the same timeframe, an aspect I support because it forces the legislature to work to ensure that taxpayer dollars are being spent as efficiently as possible.
The budget did include an increase in public education funding of almost $2 billion and increased funding for the Teacher Retirement System by 4.9%. Also, Medicaid now accounts for almost 30% of the total state budget. There is no question that public education and health and human services need adequate funding, however we should not continue to allocate more and more funding without thoughtful consideration and research on where and how the money is spent. With that in mind, the Senate is currently considering legislation that will make delivery of Medicaid services more efficient and to improve the state’s ability to detect and eliminate waste, fraud, abuse and reduce costs in the Medicaid system.
There are still many other funding issues to consider this session. As Vice-Chair of the Transportation committee, I am excited about a number of bills that will address our need for more transportation funding in a conservative manner. Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 20, authored by Chairman Nichols, would dedicate existing sales tax revenue from the sale of motor vehicles to the state highway fund. Similarly, Senate Joint Resolution 25 that I authored would direct existing motor vehicle registration fees, and the sales tax of vehicle-related items, like tires and auto parts to the state highway fund. These are just two examples of legislation out of the Transportation Committee that would redirect revenue to maintain and grow our transportation infrastructure.