DALLAS – In the last week of their 2013 session, Texas legislators have reached a deal on a $94 billion spending plan over the next two years but need to work out details of a $2 billion water bond program and $400 million of transportation funding.

Agreement between the state House and Senate on the budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 came Friday after prolonged negotiations over funding for education.

Minority House Democrats, whose votes are needed for passage of the budget, held out for restoration of a larger share of the $5.4 billion cut to education from the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011. 

In that session, Republicans had a super-majority and did not need the votes of Democrats to impose the first spending cuts on education in Texas history.

This year, Democrats agreed to restore $3.9 billion to education, with $3.4 billion going to basic public school aid and added money for teacher pensions and other education programs. The 2011 cuts included $4 billion in basic aid and $1.4 billion in education grants.

In exchange for the deal on education, Democrats agreed to support a $2 billion water bond program to provide loans to local utilities for pipelines, reservoirs and other measures.

Senate Bill 1 commits $94 million over the next two years to the water bond program. Still unresolved is how much of the funding would come from the state’s $11.8 billion rainy day fund.  House Bill 1025 includes $2 billion for the water fund, as well.

House-Senate negotiators agreed to provide $400 million for highway construction in the budget bill and will include an additional $500 million for roads in HB 1025. The funding would go toward road maintenance and construction in the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale areas where natural gas is being produced from the new technique of hydraulic fracturing.

With pipelines few and far between, producers are relying on trucks to transport the commodity, causing extreme strain on roads designed for farm and ranch traffic.

Some lawmakers decried the relatively small amount of funding for transportation at a time when the state is experiencing explosive growth and economic opportunities arising from the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in late 2014 or early 2015.

“We clearly have a shortfall in our highway funding. It’s undisputed that that’s the case,” said Senate Finance Committee chairman Tommy Williams, R-Woodlands.  Williams said he would continue to push for using $2.9 billion from the rainy day fund for transportation.

GOP lawmakers remain sensitive to concerns of the Tea Party that spending and taxes should be discouraged. While the Tea Party’s influence has waned in other states, it remains strong in Republican-controlled Texas.

Texas ranks 48th among the states in per-pupil education spending, according to the National Education Association. The state last year lost a lawsuit filed by 600 local school districts claiming that Texas’ funding formula was unconstitutional.

State District Court Judge John Dietz ruled the school finance system to be inadequate, insufficient, ineffective, and arbitrary.

Many districts must levy property taxes at the state maximum operational rate of $1.17 per $100 of valuation to meet state standards, Dietz said, with no meaningful local discretion in funding. The cap of 50 cents per $100 for debt service was not an issue in the case.

With the case on appeal, a ruling from the state Supreme Court will come after the current 140-day session ends on May 27.

The current school finance lawsuit is the sixth one filed since 1984 and the second time in 10 years that Dietz has directed lawmakers to revise the system of state support for local school districts.

At the higher education level, legislators are nearing completion of a $2.4 billion bond program for the state’s public universities. It would be the first construction bond authorization since 2006.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a bond proposal Friday, and the full House took up the matter Monday. Among the beneficiaries would be the University of Texas at Austin, which plans to build a $95 million engineering education and research center.

Future bond-funded projects coming from this legislative session include new medical schools for UT in Austin and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

In addition to creating the medical school in the Valley, Senate Bill 24 and House Bill 1000 provide the University of Texas-Pan American access to the Permanent University Fund that supports the UT and Texas A&M systems, backing bond debt for triple-A ratings.

In the final days of the session, lawmakers are on course to save a $3 billion bond program approved by voters in 2009 for cancer research and prevention. The House approved changes designed to remove the taint of recent actions by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, including the awarding of taxpayer money to private companies that donated campaign cash to Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. 

The grants to the political donors bypassed the required procedures and are under investigation by the state attorney general’s office and the public integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who was recently released from jail after pleading guilty to a driving while intoxicated charge, has not brought any notable actions against state officials since succeeding Ronnie Earle in 2009.

Under the new legislation, CPRIT must disclose governing board members’ political contributions. The bill was passed on a voice vote.

Perry sought $1.8 billion in tax breaks for businesses in the state in the budget, but received only $1 billion under the compromise budget. Perry has not said whether he will approve the measure.  As governor, he can line-item veto measures or call a special session if he deems it necessary. DALLAS – In the last week of their 2013 session, Texas legislators have reached a deal on a $94 billion spending plan over the next two years but need to work out details of a $2 billion water bond program and $400 million of transportation funding.

Agreement between the state House and Senate on the budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 came Friday after prolonged negotiations over funding for education.

Minority House Democrats, whose votes are needed for passage of the budget, held out for restoration of a larger share of the $5.4 billion cut to education from the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011. 

In that session, Republicans had a super-majority and did not need the votes of Democrats to impose the first spending cuts on education in Texas history.

This year, Democrats agreed to restore $3.9 billion to education, with $3.4 billion going to basic public school aid and added money for teacher pensions and other education programs. The 2011 cuts included $4 billion in basic aid and $1.4 billion in education grants.

In exchange for the deal on education, Democrats agreed to support a $2 billion water bond program to provide loans to local utilities for pipelines, reservoirs and other measures.

Senate Bill 1 commits $94 million over the next two years to the water bond program. Still unresolved is how much of the funding would come from the state’s $11.8 billion rainy day fund.  House Bill 1025 includes $2 billion for the water fund, as well.

House-Senate negotiators agreed to provide $400 million for highway construction in the budget bill and will include an additional $500 million for roads in HB 1025. The funding would go toward road maintenance and construction in the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale areas where natural gas is being produced from the new technique of hydraulic fracturing.

With pipelines few and far between, producers are relying on trucks to transport the commodity, causing extreme strain on roads designed for farm and ranch traffic.

Some lawmakers decried the relatively small amount of funding for transportation at a time when the state is experiencing explosive growth and economic opportunities arising from the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in late 2014 or early 2015.

“We clearly have a shortfall in our highway funding. It’s undisputed that that’s the case,” said Senate Finance Committee chairman Tommy Williams, R-Woodlands.  Williams said he would continue to push for using $2.9 billion from the rainy day fund for transportation.

GOP lawmakers remain sensitive to concerns of the Tea Party that spending and taxes should be discouraged. While the Tea Party’s influence has waned in other states, it remains strong in Republican-controlled Texas.

Texas ranks 48th among the states in per-pupil education spending, according to the National Education Association. The state last year lost a lawsuit filed by 600 local school districts claiming that Texas’ funding formula was unconstitutional.

State District Court Judge John Dietz ruled the school finance system to be inadequate, insufficient, ineffective, and arbitrary.

Many districts must levy property taxes at the state maximum operational rate of $1.17 per $100 of valuation to meet state standards, Dietz said, with no meaningful local discretion in funding. The cap of 50 cents per $100 for debt service was not an issue in the case.

With the case on appeal, a ruling from the state Supreme Court will come after the current 140-day session ends on May 27.

The current school finance lawsuit is the sixth one filed since 1984 and the second time in 10 years that Dietz has directed lawmakers to revise the system of state support for local school districts.

At the higher education level, legislators are nearing completion of a $2.4 billion bond program for the state’s public universities. It would be the first construction bond authorization since 2006.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a bond proposal Friday, and the full House took up the matter Monday. Among the beneficiaries would be the University of Texas at Austin, which plans to build a $95 million engineering education and research center.

Future bond-funded projects coming from this legislative session include new medical schools for UT in Austin and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

In addition to creating the medical school in the Valley, Senate Bill 24 and House Bill 1000 provide the University of Texas-Pan American access to the Permanent University Fund that supports the UT and Texas A&M systems, backing bond debt for triple-A ratings.

In the final days of the session, lawmakers are on course to save a $3 billion bond program approved by voters in 2009 for cancer research and prevention. The House approved changes designed to remove the taint of recent actions by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, including the awarding of taxpayer money to private companies that donated campaign cash to Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. 

The grants to the political donors bypassed the required procedures and are under investigation by the state attorney general’s office and the public integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who was recently released from jail after pleading guilty to a driving while intoxicated charge, has not brought any notable actions against state officials since succeeding Ronnie Earle in 2009.

Under the new legislation, CPRIT must disclose governing board members’ political contributions. The bill was passed on a voice vote.

Perry sought $1.8 billion in tax breaks for businesses in the state in the budget, but received only $1 billion under the compromise budget. Perry has not said whether he will approve the measure.  As governor, he can line-item veto measures or call a special session if he deems it necessary. DALLAS – In the last week of their 2013 session, Texas legislators have reached a deal on a $94 billion spending plan over the next two years but need to work out details of a $2 billion water bond program and $400 million of transportation funding.

Agreement between the state House and Senate on the budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 came Friday after prolonged negotiations over funding for education.

Minority House Democrats, whose votes are needed for passage of the budget, held out for restoration of a larger share of the $5.4 billion cut to education from the Republican-controlled legislature in 2011. 

In that session, Republicans had a super-majority and did not need the votes of Democrats to impose the first spending cuts on education in Texas history.

This year, Democrats agreed to restore $3.9 billion to education, with $3.4 billion going to basic public school aid and added money for teacher pensions and other education programs. The 2011 cuts included $4 billion in basic aid and $1.4 billion in education grants.

In exchange for the deal on education, Democrats agreed to support a $2 billion water bond program to provide loans to local utilities for pipelines, reservoirs and other measures.

Senate Bill 1 commits $94 million over the next two years to the water bond program. Still unresolved is how much of the funding would come from the state’s $11.8 billion rainy day fund.  House Bill 1025 includes $2 billion for the water fund, as well.

House-Senate negotiators agreed to provide $400 million for highway construction in the budget bill and will include an additional $500 million for roads in HB 1025. The funding would go toward road maintenance and construction in the Barnett and Eagle Ford shale areas where natural gas is being produced from the new technique of hydraulic fracturing.

With pipelines few and far between, producers are relying on trucks to transport the commodity, causing extreme strain on roads designed for farm and ranch traffic.

Some lawmakers decried the relatively small amount of funding for transportation at a time when the state is experiencing explosive growth and economic opportunities arising from the opening of the expanded Panama Canal in late 2014 or early 2015.

“We clearly have a shortfall in our highway funding. It’s undisputed that that’s the case,” said Senate Finance Committee chairman Tommy Williams, R-Woodlands.  Williams said he would continue to push for using $2.9 billion from the rainy day fund for transportation.

GOP lawmakers remain sensitive to concerns of the Tea Party that spending and taxes should be discouraged. While the Tea Party’s influence has waned in other states, it remains strong in Republican-controlled Texas.

Texas ranks 48th among the states in per-pupil education spending, according to the National Education Association. The state last year lost a lawsuit filed by 600 local school districts claiming that Texas’ funding formula was unconstitutional.

State District Court Judge John Dietz ruled the school finance system to be inadequate, insufficient, ineffective, and arbitrary.

Many districts must levy property taxes at the state maximum operational rate of $1.17 per $100 of valuation to meet state standards, Dietz said, with no meaningful local discretion in funding. The cap of 50 cents per $100 for debt service was not an issue in the case.

With the case on appeal, a ruling from the state Supreme Court will come after the current 140-day session ends on May 27.

The current school finance lawsuit is the sixth one filed since 1984 and the second time in 10 years that Dietz has directed lawmakers to revise the system of state support for local school districts.

At the higher education level, legislators are nearing completion of a $2.4 billion bond program for the state’s public universities. It would be the first construction bond authorization since 2006.

The House Appropriations Committee approved a bond proposal Friday, and the full House took up the matter Monday. Among the beneficiaries would be the University of Texas at Austin, which plans to build a $95 million engineering education and research center.

Future bond-funded projects coming from this legislative session include new medical schools for UT in Austin and in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.

In addition to creating the medical school in the Valley, Senate Bill 24 and House Bill 1000 provide the University of Texas-Pan American access to the Permanent University Fund that supports the UT and Texas A&M systems, backing bond debt for triple-A ratings.

In the final days of the session, lawmakers are on course to save a $3 billion bond program approved by voters in 2009 for cancer research and prevention. The House approved changes designed to remove the taint of recent actions by the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute, including the awarding of taxpayer money to private companies that donated campaign cash to Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. 

The grants to the political donors bypassed the required procedures and are under investigation by the state attorney general’s office and the public integrity unit of the Travis County District Attorney’s office. Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, who was recently released from jail after pleading guilty to a driving while intoxicated charge, has not brought any notable actions against state officials since succeeding Ronnie Earle in 2009.

Under the new legislation, CPRIT must disclose governing board members’ political contributions. The bill was passed on a voice vote.

Perry sought $1.8 billion in tax breaks for businesses in the state in the budget, but received only $1 billion under the compromise budget. Perry has not said whether he will approve the measure.  As governor, he can line-item veto measures or call a special session if he deems it necessary.

Subscribe Now

Independent and authoritative analysis and perspective for the bond buying industry.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.