The 85th Texas Legislature adjourned last week after passing a 217 billion dollar budget to fund state government for the next two years. While a lot of attention was given to the A thru F rating system for public schools, the session ended with about a C grade for Texas business. Important incentive programs to allow Texas to remain competitive came under fire. The Texas Enterprise Fund, which is the governor’s deal closing fund for the large job projects, will have about $90 million dollars to spend over the next two years. Far short of the 200 million the Texas business community wanted. The film incentive program received 22 million dollars. No were near the 72 million that Governor Abbott had requested. In both cases the House and Senate had virtually no money, no new money in their budgets. Governor Abbott had to step in to salvage some funding.
On the issue of infrastructure. We did not pass a bill to extend local government authority to create public-private partnerships. Which some feel is a very efficient means to get these important projects built; roads, bridges and pipelines. Some positive news. The Texas Economic Development Act or chapter 313, it allows local governments to abate property taxes to attract jobs to their community, did survive opposition from some lawmakers. The fast growing biotechnology industry passed some important measures on innovation and patient protection and help continue the Texas Cancer Institute for at least two more years. The Texas Workforce Commission was authorized to use the Skills Development Fund to help employers expanding or relocating to Texas, if they’re offering high skilled jobs. P-Tech, an innovative program that partners K-12 higher ed in the business community, did pass and was signed by Governor Abbott. Programs like the partnership between Del and Austin schools is one example. A Telemedicine bill passed that will give Texas patients more options and attract medical technology companies to the state. And yes, we did create a statewide regulatory framework for ride sharing companies. So, Austin, yes, Uber and Lyft will be back.
And finally for more summer fun. Governor Abbott just called the legislature into special session starting July 18. They work on property taxes for home, property tax relief for homeowners. Among a possible 20 total issues. In the dramatic conclusion to the 85th session, lawmakers almost came to blows on the floor of the House, over the issue of immigration. When they return, the Texas business community hopes they will fight to keep Texas the best place in America for business
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Craig Casselberry is founder and president of Quorum Public Affairs, Inc. and a 20-year veteran of Texas politics. As president of Quorum Public Affairs, Casselberry has managed more than 100 strategic communications projects, issue coalitions, and federal, state and local public policy campaigns for corporate clients of all sizes. You can learn more about Craig HERE.