After some wrangling over amendments, the Texas House passed HB 10 Thursday, which injects $4.5 billion into the budget for Texas’ Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Programs and $630 million in IOUs to public education.
Passage of the bill was necessary to make good on Texas’ financial obligations for the rest of the fiscal year, said House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Pitts (R-Waxahachie) who authored the bill. “Without the appropriation of this bill our Medicaid program would run out of money next month, leaving healthcare providers across the state of Texas without reimbursement for the services they provide our constituents,” Pitts said on the House floor.
In 2011, legislators balanced the budget by not fully funding Medicaid and other social safety net programs, impacting people with disabilities, low-income families and the elderly.
There were rumblings that Democrats might offer amendments to include education funding, but, Pitts explained on the floor, “this is not a school finance bill. Currently, there is a bipartisan group that is working together to work on school finance to see what we can do for our children in our public schools.”
Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-San Antonio) dropped his amendment, which would have forced the House to vote on school funding matters “in light of the very sincere comments by Chairman Pitts” to work toward a solution.
Rep. Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) said they were looking into the possibility of another supplemental appropriations bill to provide school districts with adequate funding.
Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) tried to add an amendment to discuss releasing the STAAR test yearly instead of every three years. Strama said that his amendment proposes to “get the test into the hands of the educators as soon as practically possible.” (He already filed a bill last month on this issue.) But Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) stood up at the back microphone to object, “It sounds like you’re trying to find ways to help deal with the testing and impact on our teachers and our students, and I think I like the concept of what you’re talking about. I just don’t know that this is the proper bill or the proper day to do that.”
Ultimately, Strama pulled the amendment and HB 10 passed unanimously. The legislation will move to the Senate next week.