After 18 grueling hours, the Texas House of Representatives concluded our consideration of the state's $150 billion budget at 3:00 a.m. last Thursday. I was disappointed that the budget shortchanged children's health care, educational programs, and other critical priorities. However, I worked hard to improve the budget -- and scored a few victories.
I helped lead the debate on a successful amendment by Rep. Rick Noriega (D-Houston) to provide teachers an $800 across-the-board pay increase. Along with passage of a provision prohibiting the use of state funds on private school vouchers over the next two years, the pay raise was the most significant change that Democrats and Republican allies won during the budget debate.
I was also very active in other efforts to improve the budget, and filed amendments to provide a cost-of-living adjustment for teacher retirement benefits, shift funding from large business incentives to small business loans, expand clean air programs, and restore full funding for family planning. Although none of these amendments were ultimately included in the bill, I did successfully attach amendments to encourage better enforcement of worker's compensation laws and fund a kindergarten expansion program for at-risk children.
The next step is for the budget bill to be taken up by the Texas Senate, and then representatives of the House and Senate will meet to negotiate any differences between their versions of the legislation.