In the coming days, Texans will learn more about how the state Senate’s budget arguments could play out. A series of Finance Committee hearings will give the public insight into spending priorities.
Leaders of the Texas House and Senate released preliminary state budget bills for their respective chambers about two weeks ago. Each proposes spending $130.1 billion over the next two years, including billions of dollars for property tax relief, for state employee pay raises and for the governor’s border security program, Operation Lone Star.
Sergio Martinez-Beltrán, who covers the Capitol for Texas Newsroom, said the biggest priority for both chambers is property tax relief. He expects that issue to be a topic of discussion during the hearings, with likely debate over whether to increase state funding to lower property taxes.
“I also hope the Senate spends some time talking about education funding and teacher salaries. And of course immigration, particularly Operation Lone Star, which is Governor Abbott’s border security initiative,” he said. “The Senate has proposed spending $4.6 billion on Operation Lone Star for the next biennial The Chamber has proposed the same. So I think it’s going to be a hot topic because the program is controversial and many have argued that it’s not as effective as the governor is making it out to be.”
The House Appropriations Committee, which handles the budget discussion on the other side of the Capitol building, likely won’t begin meeting for a month, Martinez-Beltrán said.
“The speaker of the House has yet to make committee assignments and we need that before anything else moves forward,” he said. “But I don’t think we’re going to wait much longer on those tasks. The last session of 2021, the House Appropriations Committee, which is the one that oversees the budget, started meeting at the end of February. So I think we should expect the same this year.”
Martínez-Beltrán said the budget proposals show that the Senate and House are more or less aligned on many key issues, and she expects that to continue throughout the discussion process.
“The Republican leadership in both chambers seems to agree on a few things, like spending $15 billion on property tax relief, $4.6 billion on Operation Lone Star, and $1.8 billion on raise the salaries of state employees,” he said. “The discussion that will take place this week in the Senate and next week will likely mirror those discussions in the House.”
These hearings also provide the public with an opportunity to weigh in on the state’s budget priorities.
“People interested in speaking out can do so in person this week and next week during Senate Finance Committee hearings. Show-up only. They can register to speak the same day as the hearings. They can also submit a written testimony to this committee,” he said. “If you can’t make it to Austin, you can go online to Capitol.Texas.gov and find your representative or senator and you can email their office and share your thoughts because that’s what they’re there for and you should bug them because it’s important.”
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