Senate Announces Budget Negotiation Team

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has named the Senate lineup of budget negotiators who will meet with House counterparts and hash out a final version of the two-year state budget.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick after votes on first reading of SB #11 March 18th, 2015

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has announced his five Senate conferees who will try to hash out a final version of the two-year state budget with their House counterparts named by Speaker Joe Straus on Wednesday.

The team will be led by Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, and include Sens. Joan Huffman, R-Houston; Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham; Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen; and Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown.

The lineup includes three of the seven women currently serving in the Senate, the greatest number of women on the Senate side since at least 1995. 

Last week, the Texas Senate approved a two-year, $211 billion budget that would grow spending by billions while cutting property and franchise taxes.

The Senate wants to cut the franchise tax by 15 percent and exempt businesses that make less than $4 million annually. Its budget would also allocate more than $2 billion to cover the costs of a local property tax cut. In all, that’s almost $4.5 billion worth of cuts.

The House lineup, announced Wednesday, includes Appropriations Chairman John Otto, R-Dayton, and Reps. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston; Sarah Davis, R-West University Place; Trent Ashby, R-Lufkin; and Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock. Otto and Turner served on the budget conference committee in 2013. 

The House passed a $209.8 billion budget earlier this month after an 18-hour marathon debate. House members instructed their conferees to stay away from discussing tax policy in the budget talks. The lower chamber wants to address its preference for cutting sales taxes in separate legislation.

In coming weeks, the ten members will meet to reconcile the differences in the two versions.