Photo courtesy State of Texas
Austin – The Texas Legislature today voted on the state budget in both the House and Senate. Sen. Rodríguez joined the House members of the El Paso delegation in voting for the budget.
“This was a tough vote,” Sen. Rodríguez said. “There are missed opportunities in the budget that will hurt the state’s ability to continue competing in the future.”
In a news release, Senator Rodriguez pointed out a particular gap, saying “while the state added enough money to account for overall growth in the number of students, maintaining a per-student funding level of $5,140, it did not account for inflation, which means the dollar per student doesn’t go as far. It also undercounted our Medicaid obligations over the next two years; this means that it projects a lower number than we’ll actually have, something that has become routine and that ensures each session begins with an “iou” of between $1 billion and $2 billion.”
“Instead of prioritizing these needs, the state instead put nearly $1 billion into ‘border security,’ a phrase that inaccurately frames our communities as threats, instead of as the opportunities that we are. El Paso and other border communities are important to the state and nation for trade, cultural exchange, and great places to live and work,” Sen. Rodríguez added.
On her vote, Representative Mary E. González said, “I’m proud to have helped secure funding for Texas Tech Health Science Center- El Paso’s future dental school, to continue funding crucial special items for UTEP like their pharmacy school, to maintain funding the state’s Rio Grande Compact lawsuit so that our farmers receive their fair share of water, and to support an additional $32 million for an intelligent transportation system at two El Paso ports of entry in order to increase security measures and expedite trade.”
“Even in a tough budget session, we were able to protect key El Paso interests,” added González.
The Health and Human Services budget includes $500 million in increased funding to Child Protective Services, which will pay for nearly 600 new caseworkers. It provides additional funding for mental health services, including a total of $160.5 million to address community mental health services added capacity, waitlists, collaborative grants for jail diversion, and psychiatric hospital beds.
Other budget highlights include an additional $350 million for the Teacher Retirement System, $71 million to the TEXAS Grant Program, and $44 million for Graduate Medical Education (GME).
“It is said that a budget is an expression of priorities. If so, much in this budget, like border security funding, represents misplaced priorities,” Rodríguez said. “But it also attempts a careful balance of interests, based on hard numbers and factual data. We’ve made the mistake of constraining ourselves to the point where we struggle to meet our needs, even though we have the means to do so. Without doing something extraordinary, this budget reflects the best effort this body is able to make.
“It is in that spirit that I vote for this budget, ” Senator Rodriguez said.
Some El Paso area highlights:
- Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center-El Paso received $142 million for the biennium, including a rider to establish the dental school.
- UTEP received $229.2 million for the biennium, including continued support for the pharmacy school.
- EPCC received $63.6 million for the biennium.
- Intelligent Transportation System: Authorization for $32 million for a system to streamline commercial traffic at the Zaragoza Bridge and Bridge of the Americas.
- McDonald Observatory: $5.2 million for the biennium.
- Rio Grande Compact / Texas-New Mexico Water Lawsuit: $500,000, and allowance for increments of $1 million.
- 8th Court of Appeals District, El Paso: $3.374 million for the biennium.