This is Craig Casselberry with your Texas Legislative Update. The Kentucky Derby will not run until May, but the Texas Legislature is in their own version of the home stretch. Now one thing they must do, according to our Texas Constitution, is pass a state budget for the next two years and it must be balanced. No spending outside what revenue will allow. The Texas Senate passed their version of the budget about 10 days ago, and the House did likewise late last week. The House budget spends about $1 billion more than the Senate and those differences will be worked out in conference committee. Here’s what’s important, because we have less money to spend than we did two years ago, lawmakers have a tough task deciding what programs to fund, those things like education, social and other public services, infrastructure, and maintaining a healthy economy to name a few. The business community has generally agreed on a few key areas.
First the education. There’s no better investment we can make as a state in making sure our students are prepared to enter the job market. Right now funding for higher education has been cut about six to ten percent. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail and education becomes a priority funding item.
Secondly workforce skills training. A diverse economy requires our citizens to be trained in high growth STEM areas and college readiness programs. A tax credit for employers who hire apprentices to learn a trade or a specialized skill is also being considered. The Texas Enterprise Fund attracts big job creating projects like Toyota, Apple, Chevron, and Samsung and needs $100 million dollars as Governor Abbott has requested along those lines.
The governor’s university research initiative attracts top flight academic talent to our state. It needs 40 million dollars. Stanford was a catalyst for what we now know as Silicon Valley. Texas needs the brightest minds and innovators to replicate that dynamic job creating machine right here at home.
And finally our film incentive program needs 60 million dollars. Texas directors are filming big budget movies in neighboring states that are out competing us and needs to change. The return on that investment is estimated at five to one. And remember we have about $10 billion in our rainy day fund, more than three times the other state. With the price of oil being where it’s been the last few years, revenue has suffered. It’s time to spend some, not all, some of that money on important programs like education. The House budget does that. They’ve spent $2.5 billion dollars. The Senate budget doesn’t touch that fund. The legislature adjourns sine die, which is a Latin term that literally translates to “without a day”, or if you’re more layman than Latin, “we’re done” on Memorial Day. Call your state representative and senator today and let them know where you stand. If you don’t know who they are. Google “Texas Legislature” online to find out.
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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.