Skip to main content

The Brief: Lawmakers brace for tight-fisted legislative session

During a Legislative Budget Board meeting Thursday, lawmakers set the state’s growth rate at 8 percent — nearly 4 percent lower than the threshold set two years ago.

Lead image for this article

Tribune Today

Analysis: In new media age, every reader has to be an editor
Post-election criticism of the news media is on point — journalists need to get out of their bubbles and listen to people they haven't been listening to. But that's only part of the problem: Voters need to do the same thing.

Funeral directors anxious over Texas fetal remain rules
New regulations requiring cremation or burial of fetal remains will probably be more expensive than state health officials say, and aren't necessary, funeral directors say.

After re-election fight, Hurd ready to work with Trump
Republican U.S. Rep. Will Hurd disavowed Donald Trump while fighting to hold onto his seat in the state's only competitive Congressional race. Now, not so much.

Lawmakers on board with emergency funding for child protection
If the Legislative Budget Board signs off, $150 million in emergency funds may be headed to the embattled Department of Family and Protective Services.

Abbott vows to cut funding for "sanctuary campus" schools
Though the definition of a "sanctuary campus" is murky, Gov. Greg Abbott Thursday made it clear they are not welcome in Texas.

A&M president proclaims "complete support" for football coach Kevin Sumlin
Texas A&M University President Michael Young said football coach Kevin Sumlin had "by far the best record of any coach who has moved a team from a less-challenging conference to a more-challenging conference."

Reminder: Please take our 4-minute survey to help us improve The Brief.

The Big Story

During a Legislative Budget Board meeting Thursday chaired by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, lawmakers set the state’s growth rate at 8 percent. That rate sets a cap on how much lawmakers can spend in the 2017 legislative session — or it would, if the state had enough money to grow its budget by that much. Here’s what it means for the Legislature:

• The growth rate limits how much next year's Legislature can spend compared to the previous one, effectively capping spending on roughly half of a budget that last session totaled $209.4 billion. 

This year's rate, approved unanimously, is nearly 4 percent lower than the 11.68 percent rate approved ahead of the 2015 session. State Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, told The Texas Tribune that the state won’t have enough money to grow its budget by that much, calling the budget situation the tightest since 2011.

Lawmakers will instead focus on the state’s “pay-as-you-go” cap, the constitutional requirement to pass a balanced state budget. A more consequential threshold will be known once Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar unveils his certified revenue estimate in December.

Thursday’s vote reflects economic growth slowed by low oil prices over the past two years. Tom Currah, Hegar’s chief revenue estimator, noted that Texas has weathered oil’s price plunge better than other big energy-producing states. In addition, a modest increase in oil rig counts in recent months and an agreement from OPEC nations this week to cut oil production are a few reasons for mild optimism, Currah said.

What We're Reading

(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)

Transgender Texans fight for rights, seek strength to overcome post-election 'tailspin', The Dallas Morning News

Texas Rep. Joe Barton falls short in bid to lead powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Governing Texas in the Donald Trump era, Houston Chronicle

Hensarling gives measured support to Treasury pick, won't say if he turned down Trump for budget post, The Dallas Morning News

Today in TribTalk

"As World AIDS Day is commemorated Dec. 1, health care providers, the public and policymakers in Texas must realize the virus is still invading neighborhoods at astonishing rates."

— Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston and Katy Caldwell, CEO, Legacy Community Health

Trib Events for the Calendar

•   San Antonio & the Legislature: A Preview of the 85th on Dec. 2 at University of Texas at San Antonio – Downtown Campus

•   A Conversation with Sen.-elect Dawn Buckingham & Rep.-elect Hugh Shine on Dec. 8 at Temple College – Arnold Student Union

•   Health Care and the 85th Legislature on Dec. 15 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio - Pestana Lecture Hall

•   Trivia Night on Jan. 8 at The Highball 

•   A Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Jan. 11 at The Austin Club 

•   A Conversation with Reps. Dustin Burrows & Drew Darby on Jan. 19 at Howard College – West Texas Training Center

•   A Conversation with Sen. Kel Seliger & Rep. Brooks Landgraf on Feb. 17 at Odessa College – Saulsbury Campus Center

Texans need truth. Help us report it.

Yes, I'll donate today

Explore related story topics