Gov. Greg Abbott lays out items for a special session at a press conference on June 6, 2017. | Marjorie Kamys Cotera for The Texas Tribune
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the state’s two-year budget Monday, giving his approval to the $217 billion document crafted by the Legislature.
But the governor did cut about $120 million from various programs through a mechanism known as a line-item veto — including measures meant to improve the region’s air quality and assist the colonias, impoverished areas on the Texas-Mexico border.
The budget, the product of a compromise agreed to by state lawmakers last month, “addresses the most pressing challenges faced by our state,” Abbott said in a prepared statement.
“This budget funds a life-saving overhaul of Child Protection Services, continues to fund the state’s role in securing our border, and ensures that the workforce of today and tomorrow have the resources they need to keep Texas’ economy growing and thriving,” Abbott said.
Abbott vetoed about $860,000 for an initiative to help Texans living in colonias, impoverished areas on the Texas-Mexico border. He said the state budget already included other sources of funding for Texans living in colonias.
Environmental programs suffered some of the heftiest cuts.
For example, Abbott cut about $87 million for the state’s Low-Income Vehicle Repair Assistance Program, saying it had done little to improve air quality in Texas. That program helps low-income Texans in some urban counties get funding to help repair or replace their cars if they fail emissions tests.
Abbott compared it to the Cash for Clunkers program, established under former President Barack Obama, which he called an “ill-conceived and dubious” program.
“That’s disappointing,” said Cyrus Reed, conservation director for the Texas chapter of the Sierra Club. “He’s actually taking the money away that [Texans] paid for a specific purpose and not allowing it to go to that purpose.”
Abbott also cut $6 million for air quality planning at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. The governor said he opposed the program because it would pay for bicycle use programs, carpooling awareness campaigns and other environmental items that “can be funded at the local government level.”
About $2 million intended for a study on brackish groundwater was also defunded.
Other items vetoed by the governor include $150,000 for a Legislative Law Clinic at the University of Texas, funding for state education employees who study dual-credit programs and about $4.7 million for “safety education” at the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Abbott’s veto of the environmental programs was made possible by a nonbinding opinion from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton that expanded the governor’s veto authority. The opinion held that Abbott could defund budget riders — directives to state agencies that are included in the budget but do not actually make any appropriations. The debate over Abbott’s veto power was a point of contention after the 2015 legislative session.
Kiah Collier contributed to this report.
This is a developing story that will be updated.