FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 05/29/2015
Rep. Donna Howard Registers a "No" Vote on Final Budget
Austin Lawmaker Blasts HB 1 as Neither Conservative nor Responsible
AUSTIN - Following her vote against the Conference Committee Report for HB 1, Rep. Donna Howard issued the following statement:
"Passing a budget is the most significant action we take as legislators. It should be done with full vetting and transparency. Yet, the Summary of Conference Committee Report for House Bill 1 was distributed to members mere hours before floor debate. Furthermore, limitations were imposed on members' ability to ask questions of conferees, leaving only a few hours for consideration of a $209.4 Billion budget.
"HB 1 left the House after months of bipartisan work by the House Appropriations Committee members with 141 aye votes. However, the bill we were asked to vote on today took that House-supported budget backwards. Public education funding was essentially cut in half, $1.5 Billion of sorely needed transportation funding that the House had included was omitted, and reimbursement rates for physicians providing Medicaid were reduced. Additionally, the final budget included significantly more funding for border operations despite the House's oft expressed concerns about the lack of accountability to support those operations.
"Though the House made significant headway in addressing the practice of using GR-Dedicated funds to certify the budget rather than appropriate those funds, it is anticipated that the final budget will still be relying on approximately $3 Billion of GR-D funds to balance the budget. If the proposed bills are passed to reduce GR-D reliance, that would still leave another approximately $3 Billion under the pay-as-you-go limit as well as $2.9 Billion under the spending cap, plus an estimated $11 Billion untouched in the Economic Stabilization Fund.
"And what was not funded?
• Public school funding still leaves 31% of our school districts with less funding per pupil than they received prior to the 2011 budget cuts
• Pre-K funding at approximately $148 M is still below the $200 M appropriated prior to the 2011 budget cuts
• Higher education funding is still less than the high-water mark of approximately a decade ago, and our TEXAS Grant recipients are receiving smaller grants than previously offered
"Therefore, I cannot vote for this budget. It is neither conservative nor responsible to leave so many critical programs underfunded when the necessary funds are available--even after considering the proposed tax cuts of $3.8 Billion. This budget shortchanges those services that Texans expect state government to provide in order to ensure the continuing prosperity and well-being of our citizens."
CONTACT: Jacob Cottingham