Editor’s Note: This month many new laws passed during the 2015 legislative session are taking effect. Over the coming weeks, Rep. J.D. Sheffield will provide an overview of these new laws through a short series on The Flash. This first article addresses one of the most significant new laws, the new Texas state budget. He hopes that you find these helpful and informative.
This September, many new state laws that were passed during the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature took effect. Over the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing about these new laws and how they affect the families and communities of our district. It seems appropriate to begin that conversation with one of the most important—our new state budget.
At the beginning of this past legislative session, I was appointed to serve on the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, which is charged with the responsibility of drafting the state budget. This budget passed both the House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Abbott.
The budget has two important features. First, Texans value low taxes and a state government that is limited, lean, and efficient. That is why this budget holds spending below the rate of population growth and inflation.
Second, Texas has pressing needs that require attention, such as border security, public schools, transportation, and public health. By holding the line on state spending, we were able to focus more resources on these priority items.
For example, the budget fully funds the state’s new border security plan. While Washington has proven time and again that it is unwilling to address our nation’s border security, this plan provides for 250 new state troopers to be stationed along the border for security operations. It also creates a reserve corps of retired troopers, toughens penalties for border crimes, and creates a new border crime intelligence center to better share intelligence between state and local law enforcement.
Public education also received increased support. Estimates suggest that enrollment in Texas public schools will grow by about 80,000 each year over the next two years. This budget provides new funds to meet that growth. It also provides an additional $1.5 billion for local districts to improve classroom education. The legislature also provided funds to fill a $768 million budget shortfall in the state’s healthcare plan for retired teachers, due largely to the rising cost of medical care and prescription drugs. Fully funding this health plan honors the promise made to those who do the important work of educating our rising generations of Texans.
The budget also provides additional funds for transportation by ending the practice of diverting funds from the State Highway Fund. Reforms were also made to the Department of Transportation to make sure that new highway dollars are spent transparently and efficiently. Other budget priorities receiving additional funds include child protection, with Child Protective Services receiving $332 million more to better care for abused and neglected children.
The new budget also protects the state’s Rainy Day Fund and reserves approximately $3.8 billion for tax relief. This tax relief includes a $10,000 increase the homestead exemption for school property taxes, which will reduce property tax bills for Texas homeowners. It also includes a reduction in the state franchise tax, which is paid by many small business owners.
Rep. J.D. Sheffield is a family physician and Republican member of the Texas House, serving his second term representing District 59. If you have any questions about the new state budget or any other issue, or if he can be of service to you, please contact him at (512) 463-0628.