Blog by Katie Zarate, Director of Communications
Dr. Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) headlined this week’s TAB Txlege Breakfast Series. A neurosurgeon, Dr. Bonnen chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee and serves House District 24.
The Chairman explained that the Texas Constitution provides “healthy guardrails” to ensure state resources are used wisely. Because the committee hears from every agency and organization, Dr. Bonnen said, “You get the best, broadest view of the State of Texas through Appropriations.”
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar estimated that lawmakers have $188.2 billion available for general-purpose spending during the 2024-202 biennium. Dr. Bonnen clarified that the estimate is exactly that – an estimate. “Sometimes you can come in [Legislative Session] and it’s less than what’s predicted.” The current estimate is a reflection of a healthy Texas economy, and it is important to recognize the role inflation plays in driving up sales tax revenue.
Because the Legislature has a roughly $33 billion surplus to work with, there is ample opportunity to make investments that might otherwise be unaffordable. The budget (Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 1) currently includes $15 billion in property tax relief. Dr. Bonnen believes the impact will reach both homeowners and business owners, and “there will be a lot of healthy discussion on how that happens.”
State services is another area lawmakers are investing in this Legislative Session. In order to ensure Texans receive the services they are expecting, the budget includes five percent increases for state salaries across the board. Dr. Bonnen doubled down on the importance of this investment. "If they can make more money working at a Buccees than working in a prison with no air conditioning, that is something we must be sensitive to,” he said.
Dr. Bonnen went on to mention the possibility of creating a space commission or agency to ensure Texas is leading on space exploration. He also cited the CHIPS Act, a major federal victory that TAB supported, and the need for Texas to compete for federal dollars. This is after all the birthplace of the semiconductor. Texas can and should lead on this front. Regarding broadband, Dr. Bonnen wants to see a completion timeline. He also acknowledged that additional federal dollars require a state match that they are prepared to make.
The House Appropriations Chairman closed by discussing education. The preliminary budget includes $2.5 billion for a new endowment. On community college finance, Dr. Bonnen explained, “historically we pay for input,” but if the Legislature adopts the Texas Commission on Community College Finance recommendations, which TAB supports, there will be a paradigm shift.
The TAB TxLege Breakfast Series runs through March 8th. Lawmakers, capitol staff, and TAB Board Members are invited to join February 1st where we will hear from Senator Nathan Johnson. RSVP: AAllen@TxBiz.org