Guest Column: What Really Happened on the State Budget

"Most of what I asked to be in the budget that was in the budget had been cut. Specifically dealing with some education programs that I felt strongly about."

"I was very unhappy. We had several key education programs that I believe should have been funded. And they were cut. It was not explained why they were cut. For example, paying for SAT, paying for PSAT, paying for career explorations, pre-K — some of those dollars."

— Sen. Dan Patrick, interviewed at TribLive by The Texas Tribune's Evan Smith

In a recent interview with The Texas Tribune, my colleague, state Sen. Dan Patrick, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, attempted to explain his vote against our no-new-tax balanced state budget that was approved by a supermajority of Republicans.

In part, Patrick, R-Houston, said he opposed the budget due to his concerns about specific public education programs not being funded.

The problem with these comments is that Patrick was directly responsible for these same education programs not being funded. Such revisionism cannot go unchallenged.

As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, I appointed Patrick to lead the committee’s public education workgroup. The full committee adopted, in whole, his public education budget recommendations. These recommendations did not include funding for PSAT/SAT/ACT tests. Supplemental pre-K funding of $40 million was included in the adopted recommendations. Conference committee actions reduced the supplemental pre-K funding by $10 million, which was partially offset by an overall increase in public education formula funding.

Additionally, Patrick lamented in his Tribune interview that the new state budget lacked sufficient Career and Technical Education (CTE) funding. But he failed to acknowledge that he offered the Senate floor amendment that eliminated new CTE funding in House Bill 5.

Patrick was the Senate’s lead negotiator on that bill’s conference committee. I also served on the HB 5 conference committee, along with Sens. Robert Duncan, Kel Seliger and Leticia Van de Putte. I specifically told Patrick I would fund eighth-grade CTE (at a cost of $36.1 million) in the budget if he could get the House to agree. Ultimately, he asked me and the other conferees to sign a Conference Committee report which did not include new CTE funding.

Thus, a more thorough review of the past session’s work on public education funding clearly shows the state’s new budget for public education was heavily molded by Patrick. To suggest otherwise is mystifying to me and others.

His revisionist memory is inconsiderate of the actual hard work done by members of the Senate Finance and Public Education committees.

Every member of the Legislature has the right and the duty to vote the interests of their district and their conscience. Patrick consistently supported virtually every decision made during the process of writing the appropriations bill. His unannounced opposition to the final version of Senate Bill 1 was a betrayal of every member of the finance committee who worked in good faith to prepare this budget.

I can only conclude he was looking for an excuse to distance himself from our good work to advance his own political interests.

Tommy Williams, a Republican from The Woodlands, represents District 4 in the Texas Senate and chairs the Senate Committee on Finance. 

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