The 84th Legislative Session adjourned on June 1st, and I am pleased with the many accomplishments of this session. We passed a balanced budget, provided nearly $4 billion in tax relief, invested new money in women’s and mental health, increased state budget transparency, and passed multiple measures increasing ethical transparency amongst elected officials and lobbyists.
The Legislature passed House Bill 1 (HB 1), a conservative and balanced two-year state budget, totaling $210 billion in All Funds and $106.6 billion in state General Revenue. Spending growth in the budget amounted to less than 2 percent per year. I was proud to also support a business and property tax cut measure totaling $3.8 billion. Also included in the budget is $800 million for increased border security, a $1.5 billion increase in public education spending and a robust $11 billion remaining in the State's Economic Stabilization Fund or “Rainy Day Fund.”
Additionally, the legislature was able to increase spending on our transportation infrastructure by $1.3 billion. We provided $260.8 million in funding for women’s health care, including an additional $50 million over 14-15 levels. We also invested $2 billion GR in mental health and substance abuse services for 16-17. That is $199.6 million above 14-15 levels. As the House budget conferee on Article II – the portion of the budget dedicated to funding for health and human services – I am proud of the major investments we made in the health and well-being of our citizens.
Several important education reforms are also headed to Governor Greg Abbott for approval. For example, the House broadened the accountability system used to evaluate public schools, diminishing the role of standardized testing and taking other academic factors into account. The Legislature also approved a plan to more quickly and effectively reform schools that repeatedly fail to meet academic standards.
For the first time since 2006, legislators voted to fund new facilities at university campuses across the state. In addition, the Legislature created the Governor’s University Research Initiative, which will help public institutions of higher education recruit nationally recognized scholars.
Creation of the Governor’s University Research Initiative was part of the Legislature’s larger effort to reform the economic development funds administered by the Governor’s office. Legislators eliminated the beleaguered Emerging Technology Fund and approved new oversight of other economic development funds in order to protect against abuse of taxpayer dollars.
Oversight of taxpayer dollars, in fact, was a major theme throughout the session. As the session began, details emerged about problems with contracts issued by the state’s Health and Human Services Commission. The House provided significant new oversight of how agencies award and administer private-sector contracts.
Finally, the House achieved a number of victories in its efforts to make the budget more transparent. For decades, the state has collected fees for a stated purpose, but withheld the money from that purpose so that it could be counted to certify the rest of the budget. The House reduced that practice in 2013 and further reduced it this session. As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars in fees were reduced, while additional resources flowed to transportation, hospital trauma care and state parks.
84th Legislative Session by the Numbers
Total Filed Bills: 6,276
Total House Bills: 4,207 (67%) Total Senate Bills: 2,069 (33%)
Passed out of House: 1,164 (28% of total filed passed out of House)
Passed out of the Senate: 730 (35% of total filed passed out of the Senate)
Sent to the Governor: 1,322 (21% of total filed were sent to the Governor)