The Senate Finance Committee held its first budget hearing Monday on Senate Bill 1, the Senate’s base budget proposal, beginning with overviews from State Comptroller Glenn Hegar and the Legislative Budget Board.
Reducing property taxes continues to dominate many of the financial discussions around the Capitol in light of the $33 billion budget surplus. State leaders have proposed spending $15 billion for property tax relief. Hegar warned about spending down the funds in a way that commits future dollars, as Texas is unlikely to see such a revenue surplus again. He suggested transferring significant funds into the Economic Stabilization Fund (the “Rainy Day Fund”) to mitigate the effects of any “famines” in the future.
Among the education issues discussed were school safety and school retiree benefits.
Senate Bill 1 sets aside approximately $600 million for "school safety," but when pressed on how that number was reached, the LBB said it is a placeholder until they can more accurately determine needs and costs. Sen. Lois Kohlkorst noted that current calculations have not provided enough money for some smaller districts to make needed safety improvements, so we may see efforts to set a minimum amount for districts.
The committee discussed the need for a benefit increase for retirees. Chair Joan Huffman raised the possibility of a small cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) in addition to a thirteenth check, a proposal that has also been mentioned by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other key lawmakers.
With bad weather throughout the state, the meeting was cut short and other planned hearings for this week are being rescheduled.