Budget Demands May Warrant Special Session

special session
The state Capitol in Austin on Feb. 9. | Image by Evan L'Roy, The Texas Tribune

With the 88th Texas Legislature session set to end on May 29th, lawmakers from both chambers have hashed out a budget plan with a final vote anticipated for Friday.

The compromise bill on HB 1, called the General Appropriations Act for the 2024-25 cycle, is purported to spend $144.1 billion in general revenue. Another supplemental budget bill would spend about half of the $32.7 billion surplus in the current budget as well, which has conservative advocates feeling betrayed.

Just how the budget plan impacts some of the key issues this session is beginning to come into focus.

It appears the bill will include $17.6 billion in property tax relief, but where exactly the money will be applied is still to be determined. Initial proposals to increase the homestead exemption from $40,000 to as much as $100,000 seem to have been axed. The state’s cap on the tax base for homes and businesses will be lowered from 10% per year to 5%, but this is a far cry from the rollback many Texas homeowners are calling for.

Republican lawmakers have deployed a carrot-and-stick tactic to bring about the changes they would like to see regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion offices within public universities. As a result, funding increases for higher education will only happen if a bill impacting tenure and another banning diversity, equity, and inclusion are also passed in the current session.

The plan will also allocate over $5 million for border security. In addition, the plan seeks to fund a new Texas Border Force, the existence of which is still dependent on a separate piece of legislation.

After the infamous 2021 winter storm left many Texas electricity and gas consumers in debt, getting the state back to affordable energy has become a priority. The proposed budget would allocate $5 billion to fund the construction of natural gas power plants.

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