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House budget plan reduces overall spending while putting more resources in the classroom

This week, the Texas House is scheduled to vote on a state budget for the next two years. The budget that the House Appropriations Committee approved is a balanced plan that reduces overall state spending by more than $1 billion. Most importantly, this budget takes into account a growing population and a slowed economy without raising taxes.

This budget supports priorities that are very important to the House, including:

Public Education: The total enrollment of Texas public schools is projected to grow by 165,000 students over the next two years. This budget includes funding to pay for that growth. It also provides an additional $1.5 billion to help public schools educate their students. By putting more state resources into education, this budget can be a step toward reducing the pressure on local school property taxes.

Child Protection: The state's Child Protective Services agency has been plagued by high employee turnover, which forces heavy caseloads onto the people who are supposed to protect children from abuse. The budget provides funding to hire hundreds of additional caseworkers, reduce turnover and make caseloads more manageable. This budget also strengthens the foster care system so that there will be more homes for children who are removed from dangerous situations.

Mental Health: Bexar County has been a national leader in its innovative approach to treating mental health conditions, and the House is working to replicate many of those successes on the state level. The budget provides more resources for local mental health initiatives and jail-diversion efforts, as well as funding for badly needed repairs at state mental health facilities.

In order to avoid higher taxes and prevent spending reductions that could undermine these priorities, the House is proposing withdrawing a relatively small percentage from the Economic Stabilization Fund, which is projected to reach nearly $12 billion by the end of the upcoming budget cycle. This would leave more than $9 billion in the Fund, a historically high amount. Legislators have withdrawn money from this Fund to meet the state's obligations during an economic slowdown seven times since its inception.

The Texas Senate has already approved its budget plan. Once the House approves its budget, representatives from the two bodies will work on a final version to send to Governor Abbott for approval.