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Newsletter: The Texas House Stands Adjourned

The Texas Legislature adjourned Monday after completing a 140-day session marked by achievements on a number of critical issues.

As citizen legislators, my colleagues in the Texas House and I will now return to our communities, jobs and families. While no session is perfect, Members of the House can be very proud of what we accomplished on priorities that matter to our economy and our future.

 

Among the most important issues addressed this session:

We kept our commitment to fiscal discipline. The Legislature passed a balanced budget that will increase by less than 2 percent per year. We stayed beneath the spending limit set by the Texas Constitution and left more than $11 billion in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. At the same time, we made important investments in education, transportation, child protection, public safety and mental health services.

We improved education. Not only did the Legislature provide more resources for education, but we also voted for some important reforms. We broadened the criteria used to evaluate public schools and we approved a plan to more effectively reform schools that repeatedly fail to meet academic standards. In higher education, we provided funding for the construction of needed facilities at universities and created the Governor’s Research Initiative to recruit nationally recognized scholars.

We addressed transportation. For decades, the state has used some of the money in the State Highway Fund (which is largely funded by the gas tax) for programs other than building and maintaining roads. The Legislature ended that diversion this year, sending an additional $1.3 billion to transportation. We also approved a proposal to constitutionally dedicate at least $2.5 billion in sales taxes for transportation every two years.

We made government more transparent and accountable. 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 has reduced that practice over the last two sessions, decreasing hundreds of millions of dollars in fees and using more taxpayer dollars for their intended purpose – purposes such as transportation, trauma care and state parks.

I will talk more about the House’s work in the weeks and months ahead. But for now, I want to thank you for the opportunity to represent Bexar County and to serve as Speaker. Both are tremendous honors that I am grateful to have. To share your thoughts on this year’s session, please email me atjoe@joestraus.org.