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Texas Health Care Spending Discussion Begins As House Releases Base Budget

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus has released a two-year base budget, a starting point for budget discussions over the 2015 legislative session.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus released a two-year base budget last week, while the Senate is still working on its version.

Base budget estimates like this one [read a PDF version here] are just starting points for budget discussions over the course of the legislative session, but budget analysts are looking to see what's the starting point for spending on health care.

The House is beginning that discussion with almost $76 billion for Health and Human Services, while Medicaid would get about $60 billion – both small increases over the last budget. Mental health and substance abuse would get more than $3 billion, about the same as the last budget.

"I think it’s a better starting point than in 2013, but again, all of these areas have seen cuts in the last decade or two," said Eva DeLuna Castro, an analyst with the Center for Public Policy Priorities, a progressive think tank. DeLuna Castro said this isn’t an improvement so much as it is holding steady.

John Davidson, an analyst with the Texas for Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, said while more money will get appropriated for health care, he said it’s right to maintain the same level of funding for some of the new mental health initiatives from last biennium.

"Some of these programs are rather new, and we need to take a look and see how they’re working," Davidson said.

The Senate is expected to release its base budget this week.

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