The Dallas Morning News
A CLOSER LOOK ‘Base’ budgets
Texas lawmakers have an unprecedented amount of money to spend, but nearly identical “base” budgets filed in each chamber last month didn’t dispose of much of the available revenue. That surprised longtime observers of budget-writing, who cited some notable omissions:
■ State public school formula spending from general revenue would shrink from $31.2 billion in the current two-year cycle to $29.9 billion (higher property values and slowerthan-expected enrollment growth have reduced the state’s share of the state-local tab for schools).
■ No increase in the “basic allotment,” the main component of state aid to schools.
■ No increase in teacher salaries (though budget “riders” make vague statements of intent to do so).
■ No increase in state university formula funding.
■ For the most part, state funding for health science centers maintained at 2022-23 rates.
■ No cost-of-living adjustments for retired state employees and teachers.
■ No money to install air conditioning in prisons (though a House rider signals intent).
■No money to increase wages of attendants whom Medicaid pays to help keep elderly and disabled Texans out of nursing homes ( base wage for most is $8.11 per hour with no benefits). The base budgets would spend more in a few places:
■ $12.9 billion for property tax relief (leaders tout a figure of $15 billion, but $2.9 billion of it merely continues tax cuts granted in 2019).
■ $2.5 billion for a new university endowment for schools not benefiting from the Permanent University Fund (requires separate bill).
■ $650 million of additional support for community colleges to train workers for available jobs (requires separate bill).
■ 10% raises for most state employees (5% per year).
■ $1 billion for mental health (in addition to $2.3 billion for new or expanded state mental hospitals, spending planned for a “supplemental” bill tweaking the current budget).
■ $600 million for school safety.
■ $350 million for a rural law enforcement fund (requires separate bill).