The House Appropriations and Senate Finance committees have an essential role in being able to receive key information about the agencies and services that taxpayers support.
Every committee member’s role is not only to make sure their communities receive its baseline funding, but to also carve out additional monies not originally intended for their respective districts.
This session, El Paso came out ahead.
Naturally, most of our successes were for education, as leadership appointed the first El Paso woman to the Appropriations Education subcommittee and only the second El Paso member since 1959.
The likelihood of successfully securing additional funding throughout this process is often slim, and the dual chamber appropriations process in Texas leaves room for much compromise.
For example, the House Education subcommittee adopted a $2.2 billion increase to public education, while the full House chamber adopted an additional $800 million, making the House commitment to public education a total increase of $3 billion.
However, the Senate cut the House increase by $1.8 billion, which left school districts with only a $1.2 billion net increase.
This disparity emerged from the spiraling session debate between the House and Senate regarding promised tax cuts — the House preference of a sales tax cut versus the Senate driven franchise margins tax cut and an increased homestead exemption.
Carving out district-specific funding is one of the most difficult and complex processes in the Legislature.
The budget as introduced, did not include any exceptional items for El Paso.
Through the Education subcommittee, we successfully added vital program funding for El Paso to the final budget.
Besides securing $70 million to UTEP for construction of an interdisciplinary research facility, and $71.9 million to the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso for construction of the El Paso Medical Science Building II, we also successfully secured:
• $7 million for the UTEP Pharmacy School.
• $3.5 million for the Franklin Mountains State Park Visitor Center.
• $5 million to the Rio Grande Compact Commission.
• $2.9 million to the Texas Education Agency Office of Complaints, Investigation and Ethics.
None of these El Paso-specific items were in the initial budget.
Committees and sub-committees drive the appropriations process in Texas.
During these hearings, committees hear hours of testimony from state agencies regarding the agencies’ requested appropriations and performance.
Gaps in funding or lack of an item in another chambers budget are reconciled in conference committee.
It is a subjective process and highly competitive. Many stakeholders are involved in influencing the outcome of the conference committee.
Once the committee reaches a decision, the budget is sent back to the both chambers for a vote. The end result is the final budget, then certified by the comptroller and sent to the governor.
Although the appropriations process is highly competitive, we were not only able to ensure we had a seat at the table, but also secure significant new funding for El Paso.