April 14, 2015
I’ve never been good at keeping my mouth shut. I remember my dad telling me as a very young child, “Son, we need to find a way for you to make a living with that mouth or it’s really going to get you in trouble.”
Little has changed. But the good news is I found a way to use it for good, though it does sometimes get me in trouble.
This session, I’ve served on the important budget-writing Finance Committee. And I asked a lot of questions. So many questions that my colleagues — even my Democratic friends — have been making fun of me.
That’s ok. The questions needed to be asked. I wanted some assurance that we were going to protect the retirement of our hard-working state employees. I wanted to talk about the sorry condition of our state facilities. I wanted to make clear that those in control of the Senate were preparing to sacrifice breast and cervical cancer screening to make a political point. And while I supported increasing the school homestead exemption as a way to improve affordability, I spoke up to guarantee that our schools remained whole as the Senate reduced school property taxes.
At the very least, I felt like my questions and comments caused people to start acknowledging that the state has a few needs on top of tax cuts and roads.
Working to make it better
The Senate voted out the budget today and I was among those voting “aye.”
There’s a lot to like in this budget. We have bipartisan commitment to address the needs of the Employee Retirement System and are making a significant investment from our dedicated funds, particularly the Texas Emissions Reduction Plan. And we’re providing new money for mental health as well as chipping away at the backlog of deferred maintenance needs in our state facilities.
There are also a lot of things to oppose, in particular the minimal new funding for public education.
We’ve provided a little more for our public schools through additional facilities funding and a $1.2 billion increase to the basic allotment. But we have an opportunity to do far more and address some of the problems in our broken school finance system. I hope we don’t squander the opportunity to provide Texas schoolchildren the resources they need to receive the education they deserve.
I’m hopeful that the Senate will end up adopting more of the House approach for public education because it pumps more money into schools and elements of the House plan look a lot like some of my school finance package.
That said, this budget is still very much a work in progress. It’s not done by a long shot. Today, I voted to support the Senate budget and move the process forward so that we can continue to work to make the budget better.
Count on me to continue mouthing off about it as we continue the session.