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Budget Bill Gets Tentative Approval from Texas Lawmakers

Veronica Zaragovia for KUT News

Lawmakers left a vote on the toughest and most important bill to the week's end. At the start of today, Democrats remained unhappy with funding for public education.

"They did an increase in the budget for the [Texas School for the Blind and Texas School for the Deaf]. Well you can’t count that as new money in the budget towards public education. So it’s just a sham of a proposal in my judgment."

That’s State Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, chair of the Democratic Caucus. She criticized an older version of the budget as proposed by Republicans.

But the bipartisan conference committee on the budget measure -- Senate Bill 1 – has tentatively passed a version that Senate Finance Chair Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, is pleased with.

"We’ve written a good budget for the people of Texas here. It’s a conservative budget that reflects our values," he said.

It includes roughly $3.9 billion for public education, a number that includes the money restored to schools in this bill, additional millions from a supplemental appropriations bill and money to help districts pay the costs of the Teacher Retirement System. It also has more than $1 billion dollars in tax relief, which has been one of Governor Perry's demands.

Sen. Williams said he hasn't given up on funding for road infrastructure outside of shale roads, but it could be next legislative session.

"I think that any rational person, when they look at the fact that Texas is the fastest growing state in the country, and we clearly have a shortfall in our highway funding," he said. "It's undisputed that that's the case."

Most of the water funding would be determined by the supplemental appropriations bill, HB 1025, but that bill hasn't been approved.

The rider directing health exchange talks failed, which Sen. Williams attributed to House members, who felt it would not get passed by the full House.

First the Legislative Budget Board needs to work on the bill after today's vote, and then the revised bill will  need approval from the full House and Senate to move forward.