The Looming Budget Battle
Tomorrow we will be taking up Senate Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act, which will fund our state budget for the 2014—2015 biennium. This is a big deal as the budget is the only bill we are constitutionally required to pass each session. As the bill stands today, we would appropriate $193.8 billion over the next two years; a 2.1% increase from current spending levels. I have stated publicly that if certain amendments to the budget are not adopted, I will not vote for the bill. These amendments are closely linked to recent legislation passed.
First, there are several amendments which would cut the budget across-the-board in order to fund the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas. If water projects are truly a priority, we should reduce spending on other projects and fund them within our budget. I believe raiding the Rainy Day Fund is bad for Texas, not only because long-term water projects are not an appropriate use of funds which are saved for emergency situations, but because moving water projects outside of the normal budget process means that we can spend an extra $2 billion on projects which are less important and less deserving.
Second, a group of conservative colleagues and I have proposed 37 amendments to the bill that would zero-out a number of unnecessary government programs and transfer the savings to the Teacher Retirement System. The healthcare component of the pension system for teachers is severely underfunded. We owe it to our teachers to keep our promise to them and have a fiscally sound retirement system that meets our obligations.
I personally have filed amendments to zero-out the following programs and transfer their appropriated funds to pay down our obligations to the Teacher Retirement System:
- The Texas Clean School Bus Program
- The Texas Natural Gas Vehicle Grant Program
- The Clean Transportation Triangle Program
- The Alternative Fueling Facilities Program
- The Pollution Prevention Recycling Program
- The Texas Research Incentive Program
- The Border Facility Loan Repayment Program
- And to reduce the Texas Parks and Wildlife Land Acquisition account to 2012 levels.
Please pray for us as we fight for fiscal responsibility in Texas government!