Regardless of Lawmaker Fears Of A Income Shortfall, Texas’ $250 Billion Price range Averted Main Cuts – Houston Public Media

Texas Capitol

The Texas Legislature entered this session and was faced with a financial crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession looked like it was taking a heavy toll on government revenues. That didn’t happen in the end, but the outcome has been a mixed one, especially for healthcare.

The final version of Senate Act 1, the budget for the 2022-2023 budget period, totaled around $ 248.5 billion, down 5.2% from the current cycle. Finding that number was no easy task for Senate Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee.

“When we debated the last session, our economy was booming and we had money in the bank, or so we thought,” Nelson told her fellow senators as they prepared to vote on additional funding for the current fiscal cycle in late May.

Nelson had to work on this supplementary budget at the same time as he worked on the next budget, while the pandemic and recession cast doubt on the state’s revenue projections.

“When I started working on this budget over a year ago, it was like someone took two boxes of puzzles and tossed them in the air and all the pieces fell off and we had to untangle it and put the puzzle pieces together “said Nelson.

But the economy and revenues largely recovered. The result was that Nelson was able to meet her top priorities. The fear of fresh, deep cuts turned out to be exaggerated.

“When we started on this budget, I had four main goals,” said Nelson. “We will keep our commitment to education. We’re going to fight the coronavirus and keep Texans healthy … strengthen public safety and restart our economy. And we achieve these goals. “

Nelson wasn’t alone. Although there were no large increases, legislature fears of major cuts did not materialize, and the budget was passed unanimously in the Senate – 31-0 – with only a few votes against in the House of Representatives, where it passed 142: 6. And that was before the allocation of nearly $ 16 billion to COVID-19 relief funds, which will be decided on during a special session in the fall.

Nelson was particularly proud of the health care funding – she previously served as chair of the Senate Health and Social Welfare Committee for many years before becoming editor-in-chief of the Senate budget. Two-year funding for health care was $ 34.2 billion, second only to public education’s share of the budget.

The budget includes around $ 8.4 billion in behavioral health funding, among other things, across 25 different agencies. That’s an increase of about $ 300 million from the previous cycle.

“This is a very significant increase that will have a significant impact on access to health care in Texas,” said Greg Hansch, executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Health Texas. “The increase in funds will create additional capacities in the inpatient care system that are urgently needed.”

About $ 50 million goes to inpatient psychiatric beds in Harris County. Additional funds will be used to complete the construction of a 240-bed replacement campus for Austin State Hospital, a 300-bed replacement campus for San Antonio State Hospital, and the expansion of Kerrville State Hospital, and to begin planning efforts for a new state hospital Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Republican lawmakers posted a graphic on Twitter praising the passing of the budget, with a special focus on the allocation of state to health care.

This week the Texas House officially approved # SB1, the state budget for the net biennium. SB1 is a balanced budget that stays well below all constitutional spending limits while meeting the needs of our growing state. #txlege

– Geanie Morrison (@GeanieWMorrison) May 28, 2021

But some health care proponents think this is misleading.

For example, the new budget provides additional funding for people with severe disabilities. including an additional $ 76.9 million to target lists of interests for Medicaid Community Waiver Programs. This is a program to help people with severe disabilities continue to live at home instead of being placed in homes.

Disability advocates, however, say funding is nowhere near what is needed. More than 166,000 Texans are on this waiting list. Dennis Borel, executive director of the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, said the money was only enough to remove about 1,500 people from the list.

“This waiting list, this guy at the end, if everyone stayed on it, it would take 200 years to get to the top,” said Borel. “So what does that hold (manageable)? People will die before they reach the top. “

In practice, Borel explained, people who put their names – or the names of their disabled children – on the waiting list can expect to wait well over a decade to get the help they need. Texas currently has the longest waiting list of any state in the country.

“People who are now removed from the waiting list have been on that waiting list for 17 years,” said Borel. “And that speaks to how much attention this really important issue has been given by lawmakers over the past 17 years and the end result is just not enough.”

While the budget was passed with strong bipartisan support, that doesn’t mean every legislature was happy with it. State Representative Gene Wu, D-Houston, voted for the budget, saying that overall it did more good than harm.

“There are a lot of our priorities that we wanted that weren’t taken into account,” said Wu. “But it also included a lot of things like funding higher education, funding community colleges, funding (child protection services), and these were excellent additions.”

But Wu had two main complaints. One of them was that the budget was around $ 1.1 billion for border security. That’s a relatively modest increase from spending on border security in the previous budget cycle, but Wu said it was money that would have been better spent on other priorities. It’s money that would be largely wasted if it were given a priority for Governor Greg Abbott to build a wall on the Texas-Mexico border.

“Even if we take the $ 1.1 billion added for border security that’s split across multiple agencies … even if they’ve spent all of that, that might still be about 10, 20 miles of construction,” said Wu think a lot of posing and chattering from someone who wants to run for president in four years. “

Wu’s larger complaint relates to emergency cuts from the 2020-2021 budget cycle.

“In 2020, because of the pandemic of suddenly having things going on in the economy, Governor Abbott urged all government agencies, except education, to make voluntary 5% cuts with the understanding and hope that those cuts would come.” restored in budget 2021, ”said Wu. “These cuts have not been restored.”

In health and social services, the cuts have hit particularly hard staff enrolling people for benefits – from Medicaid and the children’s health insurance program to SNAP benefits, formerly known as grocery stamps.

This is at a time when the agencies are seeing increased demand for services due to the pandemic and recession.

“We’re already seeing an effect in the fact that processing time, the time between submitting an application and receiving benefits, has deteriorated over the past 6-9 months,” said Anne Dunkelberg, deputy director of the Public Policy Research Group for Every Texan.

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