As lawmakers at the Texas capitol prepare to get to work on Tuesday they will do so with about a billion less dollars on hand for the biennial budget than they did last time around and that has some people on edge.
State Comptroller Glenn Heger announced hid Bieenial Budget Estimate on Monday which shows that lawmakers will have around $112.5 billion dollars to spread out of the course of two years to cover the expenses for the state of Texas.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said that he intended to increase funding to public education programs that were funded last session and make sure that educators have access to their annual cost of living adjustments. Patrick also hinted that he wanted to send more money to the Texas border to help State Troopers remain safe while assisting with border protection duties.
Patrick also mentioned that he would work to keep focus on the Economic Stabilization Fund, better known as the “Rainy Day Fund,” making sure that is fully funded. He also insisted that by the end of the session Texans would have a balanced budget—something that is required by the constitution of the state.
Also on tap for this session is potentially the further legalization of marijuana and casino based gaming. While it is not likely that the state would move to fully de-criminalize marijuana until the feds take the lead, expectations are that we may end up seeing something come out of the session that lessens penalties for possession and use at the state level. Casino gambling is also on the table, but neither has overwhelming support from lawmakers. If anything, the most likely outcome, which is far from certain, is that there will be a move towards making virtual gaming accessible in Texas or the possibility of destination type casinos. But even those are for the large part longshots for the legislature.
Democrats will be pushing hard for Medicaid expansion in Texas just like they do nearly every session. Presumptive incoming Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan (Republican-Beaumont), says that is not a priority for him and indicated on Monday that he has no interest in making Medicaid expansion a priority.