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Lawmakers could use $5 billion of a record surplus for raises, flood prevention and border operations

By Karen Brooks Harper, The Texas Tribune

Lawmakers could use $5 billion of a record surplus for raises, flood prevention and border operations” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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Some $5 billion of the state’s historic $32.7 billion surplus would be earmarked for state employee pay raises, mental health hospitals, border security, flood mitigation projects, Medicaid costs, state debt reduction and other items under a bill being considered Wednesday by Senate budget writers.

Senate Bill 30, by Senate Finance Chair Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would add $11.8 billion to the state’s current budget, which runs until the end of August.

The proposal includes $5 billion in general revenue made available to budget writers by unprecedented and unanticipated tax revenue left in state coffers as lawmakers entered this legislative session. It also allocates about $1.4 billion in federal recovery dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Both the House and Senate budget bills include $100 million for the first round of state employee pay raises, beginning immediately with more to come in the next two years; $600 million for grants to school districts for safety measures and $400 million for flood mitigation projects.

“As promised, SB 30 supports proposals and initiatives that will help keep Texas as the premier state for families and businesses alike,” Huffman said in a statement on Twitter.

House Appropriations Chair Greg Bonnen, R-Friendswood, filed his chamber’s version of this year’s supplemental budget bill, HB 500, on Tuesday. It is similar to the Senate bill, though not identical.

Both proposals would pump $1 billion into the Employees Retirement System to lower debt payments by offsetting some of Texas’ unfunded pension liabilities for state employees, which amounted to $14 billion in 2021. They also earmark $2.9 billion in general revenue to fill in gaps in Medicaid funding due to enrollment and rising costs.

Neither bill addresses the notion of property tax reductions this year, a cornerstone of GOP state leaders’ plans for a chunk of the surplus, for the current spending plan. The proposals for the next two-year spending plan include some $15 billion for property tax cuts.

Legislation supplementing the current budget, which was initially written based on projections made before it passed in 2021, is a routine task each session and allows budget writers to shore up any differences that appeared in costs and actual revenue during the previous two years.

Some $27 billion that would remain in the surplus — the same amount the U.S. has sent in military aid to Ukraine in the last year — is, so far, left out of separate budget proposals for the new budget that starts later this year. So is about $4 billion in federal ARPA funds.

The proposals come as House and Senate budget leaders work through the details of budget bills that propose spending $130.1 billion in general revenue in the 2024-25 spending cycle.

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1 Comment

  1. george r pruitt on March 10, 2023 at 1:17 pm

    They do not have a surplus. they have charged/collected too much in Taxes. Since they have this money that is burning a hole in their pockets, they can repair Tx highways and Farm to Market roads in So Tx. The roads in Medina Co Tx are horrible. They are full of potholes, washouts, and a lot of them were not paved properly to begin with ! The shoulders are bad, the culverts are plugged, the signs and markers have been knocked off. If you drive between Devine and Hondo on Hwy 173, the odds are you will get a crack in your windshield, from the large gravel haulers that frequent that road. Take care of the roads !!!

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