At today’s post-Senate session press avail, Sen. Steve Ogden says the final budget document approved by conferees shapes public policy in several big ways, including:
1. “A dramatic shift in policy in how we serve mentally retarded Texans” represented by a $500 million increase in total funds for community services that serve as an alternative to state schools. Ogden credited Sen. Judith Zaffirini for the increase because “it’s been her advocacy all along that got my attention.”
2. “A historic change in TxDOT” funding with substantial new money for general revenue bonds and establishing a revolving fund that will serve as a bank for highway projects. Ogden said the “bill pattern is very clear and people will be able to see where money will go.” And, of course, diversions of gas tax revenue have been reduced.
3. Contingent upon passage of a school finance bill, the budget has $1.9 billion for new money for public schools, in an attempt to increase equity, Ogden said.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst also noted the bill also contains money for a pilot program of a revolutionary approach to health care for state retirees, and establishes a fund for new Tier One universities.