More updates from Austin
Day two of the Texas Association of Business’ Annual Meeting and Policy Conference continued with discussion of healthcare reform, updates from the Texas Workforce Commission, and ended with remarks from House Speaker Joe Straus. Oh, and of course, the always informative and entertaining media panel giving their predictions for Session.
Yes, the word Special Session came up in a speculative manner from the media panel. The overarching questions relate to the new presidential administration and the direction a new President’s agenda might translate into money for states. Once we see what reforms in healthcare will come down the pike, there could be federal dollars in the form of block grants to pay for Medicare/Medicaid. The new president made a campaign promise to build a wall between Texas and Mexico. If that actually comes to fruition, the state might be able to move money dedicated to border security. Trade is also a major concern as companies who rely on trade with China and NAFTA are concerned about some of the reforms. So, bottom line, there is not a lot that we know but can only guess.
The other discussion revolved around what many people call the Rainy Day Fund – which is funded through oil and gas industry. The real name is the Economic Stabilization Fund and there are different thoughts on when and how the money should be used. Currently there is $12 Billion in the fund and the discussion relates to how much the minimum balance should be and whether or not to use some of those funds to pay one-time expenses.
When Speaker Straus took the stage (photo above) he addressed the business audience with his priorities in the next session which are outlined in the introductory budget that was filed yesterday. He said the number one priority is public education. The house version of the budget reduces the impact of recapture (or Robinhood as many call it) in order to not rely so heavily on funding public education through property tax dollars. His second priority is to reform the Child Protective Services Agency and has proposed new revenue in order to fund more caseworkers and investigators as well as raise salaries to remain competitive. In addition there would be accountability measurements tied to the money to ensure performance. His third priority is mental healthcare including early intervention and care for veterans. He believes putting money in those programs will save dollars later down the line.
Those were the main highlights from the conference. After a few Capitol visits, including a discussion with McKinney’s State Representative Scott Sanford, I’m heading home! Please note, the content in this article is meant to provide information and does not reflect the views of the McKinney Chamber of Commerce. To see the Chamber's Legislative Priorities, click here.