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House Committee Backs Budget That Includes More School Funding

The $193.8 billion budget approved by the House Appropriations Committee includes an extra $2.5 billion for public education. The bill is smaller than the Senate budget by about $1.7 billion.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, looks at the voting board as the House passes HB1 the state budget, 97-53, late in the evening on May 28, 2011.

The House Appropriations Committee unanimously approved a $193.8 billion budget on Thursday that puts $2.5 billion in additional money into public schools.

The House budget goes further than the Senate by about $1 billion in reversing $4 billion in cuts made last session to the Foundation School Program, the mechanism through which most state education funding is allocated.

“I think the House can be very proud of what we’ve been able to restore in this bill to public education,” said state Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, who oversaw education for the committee.

Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, said he hopes to bring the bill to the House floor on April 4 and expressed optimism that the bill will get strong support.

“After today, you can be very proud of the bill we’ll be taking to the floor in a couple of weeks,” Pitts told the committee members.

Pitts also said the committee plans to put an additional $500 million toward schools in the current budget as part of a supplemental budget bill the Legislature will vote on late in the session.

Democrats have been pushing to restore the full $5.4 billion in cuts made to public education last session. Pitts said that all the cuts shouldn’t be reversed, noting that agencies have become more efficient and reduced administrative costs in the interim.

When asked if $2.5 billion was the most the House would be willing to put back into public education, Pitts said, “It’s not over till it’s over.”

The House budget is $1.7 billion smaller than the one the Senate passed on a 29-2 vote on Wednesday. The House budget spends $93.5 billion in general revenue, the portion of the budget state lawmakers have the most control over. That’s $600 million less than the $94.1 billion in general revenue spending in the Senate budget.

Like the Senate budget, the House budget includes increases in mental health funding and graduate medical education.

Full details of the budget the Appropriations Committee voted on were not available on Thursday afternoon. Pitts and House Appropriations staff could not say when they would be publicly released.

Before the vote, Pitts listed some of the details of the bill he was proudest of, including money to address the state’s testing backlog in rape kits, which he described as “the first significant funding of this program by the state.”

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Public education State government Budget Texas Legislature