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Governor signs 2018-2019, two-year state budget into law

by | Jun 21, 2017 | Opinion

By Ed Sterling 

Ed Sterling is the director of member services for the Texas Press Association.

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott on June 12 signed Senate Bill 1, legislation that appropriates some $217 billion to pay for the state’s next two-year fiscal period.

“I am once again signing a budget that addresses the most pressing challenges faced by our state. This budget funds a life-saving overhaul of Child Protective Services, ensuring children in Texas’ foster care receive the protection they deserve,” Abbott stated in his proclamation. “Even in a tight budget climate,” he added, “this budget prioritizes the safety and well-being of all Texans. It continues to fund our state’s role in securing the border, adding an additional 250 troopers to keep our communities safe. It funds the state’s natural disaster response costs to provide state resources when disaster strikes. And it better protects our law enforcement officers across the state by funding grants for bulletproof vests.

“This budget ensures the workforce of today and tomorrow have the resources they need to keep Texas’ economy growing and thriving,” Abbott continued. “Under Senate Bill 1, all eligible prekindergarten students will receive a high-quality education by increasing standards statewide. And the state will remain competitive on the job creation front with funds to help Texas remain the best state in the nation for doing business.

“This budget achieves all of these goals while restraining state-controlled spending below the growth in the state’s estimated population and inflation. During the upcoming special session of the 85th Legislature, passage of legislation or a constitutional amendment to ensure the state continues to budget within responsible spending limitations will remain a top priority,” added Abbott.

List of items are vetoed

Gov. Abbott further exercised his constitutional prerogative by vetoing approximately $120 million in line items from the 2018-2019 state budget.

Examples of funding vetoed by the governor include more than $86 million that had been earmarked for LIRAP, the Low Income Vehicle Repair Assistance, Retrofit and Accelerated Vehicle Retirement Program; and

– $6 million to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for air quality improvement programs in certain counties;

– $4.7 million to the Texas Department of Public Safety for safety education;

– $4.2 million to the Texas Lottery Commission for a bonus to lottery retailers;

– $2.5 million to the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board for water supply enhancement, primarily a brush-cutting program conducted on private land;

– $2 million to the Texas Water Development Board to study aquifers and brackish groundwater; and

– $860,000 in funding to the Secretary of State, for aid to colonias, substandard, unincorporated subdivisions. According to the Secretary of State, more 400,000 people reside in 2,294 colonias located primarily along the state’s 1,248-mile border with Mexico.

Abbott vetoes list of bills

In addition to his June 12 vetoes of line items within the state budget bill, Gov. Abbott on June 15 vetoed 50 individual bills that had survived final votes in both House and Senate.

Among them were a few bills Abbott said he felt were duplicative of other bills he had approved.

Examples of other bills he struck down on their own merits were:

– HB 462 by Tony Dale, R-Cedar Park, relating to the provision of notice of proposed rules by state agencies. Abbott wrote that the bill  “has the potential to slow down the executive rulemaking process.”

– HB 1284 by Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, relating to the licensing and regulation of a journeyman lineman. Abbott said he vetoed the bill because he vetoed an identical bill that passed in the 2015 legislative session.

– HB 2943 by Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, relating to the use of money in the state water pollution control revolving fund. Abbott said the bill contains mandates that “are unnecessary and tie the hands of program administrators.”

All of the governor’s veto statements can be accessed at gov.texas.gov.

Depository operator named

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar on June 14 announced the selection of Austin-based Lone Star Tangible Assets as the vendor that will partner with his office to build and operate the Texas Bullion Depository — the nation’s first state-administered gold bullion depository.

On June 12, Hegar named Tom Smelker, director of the state’s Treasury Operations, as the first administrator of the Texas Bullion Depository. Smelker has worked for the State Treasury for 30 years, including 10 years serving as director of Treasury Operations.

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