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Government/Politics

In The Wee Hours, Texas House Passes Budget With More For Schools

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Ryan E. Poppe
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The Texas House spent the better part of Tuesday night wrangling over the next two-year state budget. Early morning Wednesday, House members tentatively passed the largest budget in state history.

Hundreds of amendments are under consideration as part of the $210 billion spending plan and one key change is the additional $2.2 billion for school funding. Chief budget writer John Otto, a Dayton Republican, said it covers an increase in the amount of money the state spends for each public school student. “It increases the basic allotment from $5,040 per ADA to 5,213 per ADA. That’s a 117 percent increase in the funding formula,” Otto explained.

The marathon session included skirmishes over spending on a number of issues, including border security. The House plans to fund $500 million to add 250 Department of Public Safety troopers being deployed in the Rio Grande Valley.

Benavidas Democratic Rep. Ryan Guillen said people in South Texas fear what the future holds for his constituents. “My community is frightened, is frightened to know and imagine that not only are we going to get that over the next two years, [but also] the 233 percent increase in citations. Not only are we getting that, but we’re getting it doubled, because we’ve got the surge funded in there, then we also have, in addition, to hire a new set of full time officers,” Guillen told his House colleagues.

A heated moment came when freshman Dr. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman) added an amendment that succeeded in moving $2.5 million from a program to prevent STD/AIDS, to a sex education program that promotes abstinence.

Eagle Pass Democrat Pancho Navarez challenged Spitzer before the measure was adopted. “And you feel that you, as a medical doctor, that the position you are taking on not just a fiscal standpoint but the actual position that you’re taking on this issue is prudent for someone in the medical community, a scientist?

Spitzer’s terse response was, “Yes I do.” To which Navarez reiterated: “You do, you really do. You stand here in front of all these men and women and believe that it is a prudent amendment to take?” Navarez asked. But a majority of those present clearly agreed that it was prudent.

The Senate must pass its version of the budget, one that will probably include less money for education and more funding for border security. Then the two chambers will meet in a conference committee to approve a final spending plan that may look very different than the one the House has adopted.