Texas House prioritizes education, property tax reform in budget debate

Texas representatives spent Wednesday debating the budget for the upcoming two years.

Passing the budget is required before the end of the regular session on May 27, but finding enough funding can be difficult in a state where the population continues to boom. 

“The good news is that our oil and gas business is growing and revenues are coming in associated with that sales tax coming in, but we do have a spending cap,” said Rep. Dan Huberty, R-Houston. "We have a certain amount of money that can be spent and then we're prohibited to spend any more than that."

The budget for 2020 and 2021 is $250 billion. Representatives sifted through more than 300 proposed amendments to identify where those dollars are most needed. 

“The budget is about the state's priorities and it's about folks on both sides of the aisle coming together to work on the goal of funding the important programs for Texans,” said Rep. Brad Buckley, R-Killeen.   

This year, there are some programs that both Democrats and Republicans are working to prioritize. 

“Education, for sure, we're putting $9 billion more into the House budget for public education,” Huberty said, "and it includes about $6.3-6.4 billion of new money going into the system, and then $2.7 billion of tax relief."

However, there are always bound to be some disagreements on the House floor. 

“What we see lacking is addressing gun reform, any sort of kind of gun protection and background checks,” said Samantha Robles of Progress Texas.  

Democrats are also fighting for more money for healthcare, an issue they said Republicans haven't focused on enough. 

“Overall, the last couple of years, we've seen the state legislature move more funding into border security and border wall efforts versus funding our healthcare system and public education,” Robles said.  

However, Republicans said there's a reason border security is high on the priority list. 

“It's critical that we do it,” said Huberty. "We've learned that the federal government continues to not fund us, not give us resources, and we have a serious problem with drug mules and people coming over the border and so we’ve got to take care of our own citizens and unfortunately, it's very expensive to do that."

The debate is far from over. The House budget bill will still need to be considered by the Senate.