Over 6,000 bills will be filed during this legislative session, but in many ways, the most important one for Texas kids is the state budget bill. The budget proposals filed last week show that we have a lot of work to do this session to ensure the state properly invests in children.
There are significant differences between the more realistic House budget proposal and the barebones Senate bill. For example, the Senate approach includes a "rider" with an across the board budget cut that could reduce health and human services funding by an extra $489 million (not even counting federal funds) and cut other programs. It also excludes known Medicaid expenditures, setting up the program for a large shortfall over the next two years.
Both proposals take an important first step towards boosting child protection funding, but they cut funding to prevent neglect and abuse and have a long way to go to address the crisis in foster care. As we testified this week, both chambers also fall short of maintaining the current level of annual funding for the state's new pre-k grant program. Additionally, the budget proposals fail to fund expected enrollment growth in Early Childhood Intervention.
The good news is these budget proposals are considered a starting place -- and there's time for you to contact your state legislators about prioritizing children in the budget and tapping the state's Rainy Day Fund to avoid cuts.
In fact, on Tuesday you can speak directly to legislators writing the budget during the Senate Finance Committee hearing on funding for health and human services, including CPS, therapies for children with disabilities, mental health, Medicaid, and more. We hope to see you there!