AUSTIN – The Texas House gave final and overwhelming approval Saturday to a budget proposal that keeps state spending flat while making significant investments in child protection and mental health care.
The budget, Senate Bill 1, appropriates about $107 billion in General Revenue and almost $1 billion from the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund. Including federal funds and other dollars, the budget totals $217 billion.
“We started with a sizable shortfall, but we are ending this session with a balanced budget that invests in some very important priorities,” said House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. “We’re keeping overall spending low while improving child protection and mental health care.”
The Legislature and Governor Greg Abbott have made it a priority during this year’s legislative session to improve Child Protective Services and the state’s foster care system. The budget provides an additional $508 million for child protection, including $88 million in new funding for almost 600 CPS caseworkers, $85.4 million to enhance foster care provider rates and $32.5 million in additional support for family members who take in abused children, which is also known as kinship care.
The 597 additional CPS caseworkers are in addition to the 829 new caseworkers that state leaders authorized in late December and that legislators formally approved with the passage of House Bill 2, the budget bill for the rest of the current fiscal year.
“These caseworkers will allow CPS to see children more quickly and more frequently,” Speaker Straus said. “This budget will help Texas do a better job of protecting innocent children.”
Another top priority for the Texas House has been mental health care. The budget provides $300 million for new construction, significant repairs and increased capacity at state mental health hospitals. It also appropriates $62.7 million to eliminate projected waiting lists for community mental health services for adults and children and $37.5 million for a new mental health jail diversion program.
“We are taking a major step forward in our treatment of mental health in Texas,” Speaker Straus said. “This budget will allow us to implement reforms that we’ve been working on for two years.”
The budget also appropriates $350 million to increase the contribution rate and address a projected shortfall in TRS-Care, the health care program for retired teachers. Without that funding, retired educators would have faced significant increases in their health care premiums and deductibles. In addition, the budget avoids the severe cuts to higher education that were discussed earlier in the legislative session.
The final version of Senate Bill 1 also includes:
$75 million in education funding to offset share declines in property values in some school districts.
An additional $71.5 million for Texas Grant scholarships, allowing the program to reach 92 percent of eligible students.
More than $100 million to address critical cybersecurity and IT needs across state agencies.
$160 million for deferred maintenance at state schools and hospitals.
$90 million for critical life and safety repairs across state facilities.
A 25 percent restoration of rates for Medicaid therapy services.