Other Voices

Budget tops priorities for 84th Texas Legislature

The Texas Capitol in Austin
The Texas Capitol in Austin Associated Press

Preparations for the upcoming legislative session are already well underway.

Last month, lawmakers began prefiling legislation, and already at least 688 bills have been filed before the official start of the 84th Texas Legislature on Jan. 13.

Those are just a few of the thousands of pieces of legislation that will be filed, on topics ranging from education to transportation, from health care to whether or not Texas should enforce daylight savings time.

During the last legislative session, 5,868 bills were filed. Of those, 1,437 were signed into law by the governor.

Among the thousands of bills, there is one that will be my top priority as chair of the Senate Finance Committee. I will be filing SB 1, the Senate’s proposal for the state budget.

My top priority is to pass a conservative, transparent budget that meets our growing needs.

We must protect our state’s successful economic formula. Texas businesses carried us through the national recession by producing the jobs and opportunities our citizens need, and we have emerged stronger than ever.

Now we have an opportunity to take our economy to even greater heights by reducing the tax burden on businesses to promote growth and prosperity.

We must also continue to meet our state’s needs, especially with regard to transportation and education.

It concerns me that we are only providing enough funds to maintain our current highway system. We need long-term funding solutions to expand our highways and address Texas’ growing transportation needs.

We also need to provide every Texas child access to a great education, and I anticipate both of these issues will receive a lot of attention this session.

Besides the budget, my other legislative efforts next session will focus on ensuring state services are achieving their intended outcomes. As chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission, I will be working on several pieces of legislation to improve Texas’ health and human services.

To make sure that state agencies are operating efficiently and have not outlived their usefulness, each agency, board and commission goes through what is known as a “sunset review.”

Agencies typically undergo review every 12 years, and this year all of the health and human services agencies are going through this process.

These services account for a third of our state budget, so this process is a perfect opportunity to ensure that we are making the best possible use of our tax dollars while keeping our commitment to children, seniors and Texans with disabilities.

I have also filed bills to ensure individuals applying for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, commonly known as welfare, are drug-free, as well as to create a grant program for veteran’s mental health services and protect the privacy of drivers using toll roads in North Texas.

I am also working on additional bills to better protect victims of domestic violence and address the growing need for primary care in Texas.

State Sen. Jane Nelson represents Senate District 12, which includes parts of Tarrant and Denton counties, and chairs the Finance Committee. Jane.Nelson@senate.state.tx.us