Crime

Texas House advances supplemental budget bill to address funding shortfall

The 86th Legislature runs from Jan. 8 to May 27. From the state budget to health care to education policy — and the politics behind it all — we focus on what Texans need to know about the biennial legislative session.

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The Texas House on Wednesday advanced a $9 billion supplemental spending plan to pay for leftover expenses that aren’t covered in the state’s current two-year budget, mostly for Hurricane Harvey recovery and health and human services programs.

A record $4.3 billion withdrawal from the state savings account covers the largest share of expenses in the supplemental bill. Another $2.7 billion comes from the state’s general revenue, and $2.3 billion are federal funds.

After a few minutes of discussion, the House gave a unanimous voice vote in favor of its version of Senate Bill 500. The legislation returns to the Senate, whose stopgap spending plan approved earlier this month carried a $6 billion price tag.

Later Wednesday, House lawmakers took up House Bill 1, the chamber’s $250 billion spending plan for 2020-21.

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Lawmakers in 2017 underfunded Medicaid, the federal-state health insurance program for the poor and disabled, requiring a $4.4 billion infusion of state and federal funds. The Legislature must pass the stopgap funding bill before the end of May if the Texas Health and Human Services Commission is to be able to pay health care providers on time.

The supplemental bill also includes:

  • Nearly $2 billion to reimburse school districts, state agencies and universities for costs they took on after Hurricane Harvey

  • About $1.3 billion to shore up a system that pays out teacher pensions, contingent on the passage of a pension reform bill, which includes $658 million from the state savings account to provide a one-time “13th check” made out to retired teachers

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  • Nearly $11 million for the Santa Fe Independent School District, which experienced a mass shooting last year that left 10 dead and 13 wounded

  • $2 million for state mental hospital improvements, which includes funding to plan the construction of new hospitals in the Panhandle and the Dallas area.

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