Money, Money, Money, Money, Mooonnney

By Leah Gonzalez

As the final day of Texas’ 86th Legislative Session approaches, the House and Senate continue to work toward developing and reconciling the state budget for the next two years. Ahead of the Session, The Texas Tribune reported that, “Texas Comptroller, Glenn Hegar, offered a cautiously optimistic outlook for the Texas economy, telling lawmakers they will have about 8.1 percent more state funds available to budget for public programs — primarily schools, highways and health care — in 2020 and 2021.”

In January, both chambers released their proposed budgets, which included base funding for all the state agencies. TWHC takes special interest in the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) because it oversees both Healthy Texas Women (HTW) and the Family Planning Program (FPP). Both programs are funded through General Revenue (GR), which are state funds that come from Texas taxpayers.

Earlier in the Session, HHSC and other state agencies submitted Legislative Appropriations Requests (LAR), letting them know their projected funding needs for the next two years. HHSC’s LAR requested $225 million, and a $57.9 million exceptional item (EI) to support caseload growth and cost increases for the D.1.1 Women’s Health Programs Strategy. This is the strategy that funds HTW, FPP, and the Breast and Cervical Cancer Services programs.

The House and Senate each develop their own budget versions and the funding levels vary. Every session, the budget begins in one chamber – though both chambers develop different versions. Once the budget from the originating chamber has been voted on by the House and Senate, the work begins to reconcile the different versions. This work is done through a smaller committee made up of Senators and Representatives, called the conference committee. During this time, the Legislature considers submitted agency LARs, but ultimately, the final determination of funding levels is in their hands.

Comparison Chart for Women’s Health Programs Funding
as of April 10, 2019
  HHSC Legislative Appropriations Request House of Representatives Senate
Base Budget $225 million $278.8 million $284.6 million
Exceptional Item $57.9 million $88.13 million $30 million
Total $282.9 million $366.93 million $314.6 million
House of Representatives

In the initial House version, the D.1.1 Women’s Health Programs Strategy was funded at $278.8 million. Later, the House updated their EI and approved it at $88.13 million, which left their women’s health programs budget total at $366.93 million.

On March 27, House members discussed all the proposed budget amendments. During this process, amendments may be adopted, withdrawn, or moved to Article XI.

Article XI is either thought of as a “wish list,” or more cynically, as the place amendments go to die. We identified eleven amendments related to TWHC priorities. Of those 11, five were adopted, with the others being either withdrawn or moved to Article XI.

Senate

In the Senate’s initial budget, the D.1.1 Women’s Health Programs Strategy (page II-43) was funded at $284.6 million. Since then, the Senate Finance sub-groups met several times to discuss budget riders and exceptional items. On March 28, all the sub-groups gathered to propose their recommendations to the full Senate Finance Committee.

During the Senate Finance Committee hearing, we learned that $30 million (page 26) of the HHSC’s requested $57.9 million EI was included in the proposed budget. That approval, combined with the budgeted amount for the Women’s Health Programs strategy, brings the Senate total to $314 million for fiscal years 2020 and 2021.

The House voted in favor of their budget, HB 1, and sent it over to be discussed by the Senate. On April 9, the Senate voted in favor of the Senate Committee Substitute of HB 1, which does not align with the House version. Members from each chamber will be appointed for the conference committee to work through the differences.

There’s still a long road ahead before the state budget is finalized with an agreed upon version by both the House and Senate. TWHC is committed to advocating for more funding for these essential programs to ensure Texas women can access the care they need. No matter the outcome, TWHC will continue to monitor and provide updates along the way.