DALLAS – The Texas Senate is expected to begin debating a $94.1 billion budget Monday after the Senate Finance Committee unanimously approved a 7.7% spending increase over two years.
With federal dollars included, the biennial budget comes to $195.5 billion, or 2.9% more than the current budget that runs through Aug. 30.
All 15 Senators on the committee voted in favor of the budget identified as Senate Bill 1, which started off at $88.9 billion when it was introduced in January.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate, issued a statement in support of the version passed by the Finance Committee.
“Revenue this year has been much better than expected, so much so that the Senate passed three bills last week to reverse some financial techniques used to balance last session's budget,” Dewhurst said. “This year's budget puts more money into public and higher education, mental health services and women's health services.”
The committee’s version of SB1 still falls about $3 billion short of the amount needed to keep up with the state’s population growth and rising costs, according to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an advocacy group for low-income Texans.
The updated budget increases public school funding by $1.4 billion but falls short of the $4 billion cut in state aid passed by the 2011 Legislature. The school funding cut brought a lawsuit from school districts in Texas.
A state district judge in Austin ruled that the funding mechanism was unconstitutional. Appeals of the ruling are expected to prevent a decisive outcome on the case before the Legislature adjourns at the end of May.
The committee version of SB1 also adds $226 million to mental health programs to reduce waiting lists for substance abuse treatment and other services. The juvenile justice system gets a $15 million increase.
State parks that were expected to close under an earlier budget proposal would all stay open and get additional money for backlogged maintenance needs, under the Finance Committee’s version of the budget.