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Texas' 87th Legislative Session Begins Tuesday, Public Education At Top Of The List

ARLINGTON Texas (CBSDFW.COM) - After the violent attack at the U.S. Capitol, Governor Abbott wouldn't say if he's called for more security at the Texas Capitol as state lawmakers prepare for their new legislative session.

He said, "That's something the Texas Department of Public Safety always remains on top of. They will continue to remain on top of that."

In a statement, the Texas Department of Public Safety said, "...While we do not discuss operational details, DPS will continue to adjust our operations, including deploying additional personnel and resources as needed to maintain public order and address potential threats."

The Governor appeared at a news conference Monday, Jan 11, in Arlington after he toured a mass COVID-19 vaccination site and updated the public about not only the vaccine but new infusion centers in Irving and Fort Worth that administer monoclonal antibodies to coronavirus patients.

Earlier Monday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced that the next two year budget lawmakers consider won't be as bleak as first thought.

State lawmakers will have more than $112.5 billion in general revenues for 2022-23, which is nearly the same amount they spent during the current biennium.

He said there is a nearly $1 billion shortfall in the current budget, which is down from a $4.6 billion deficit forecast last summer.

Hegar said state revenues are increasing because retail sales are rebounding, and so is the price of a barrel of oil.

1,300 Bills Already Filed For Upcoming Texas Legislative Session: Getting Some Passed 'Not An Easy Process'

Governor Abbott expressed optimism about the budget.

"We should be well-positioned as we have in the past with a very robust economy. Some people are predicting an even faster growing economy in 2021 and 2022 than what we have seen in a long, long time."

But both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers acknowledge they will still have to make tough budget choices.

One thing they agree on is remaining committed to last session's House Bill 3, which spent more state revenues on public education, and didn't rely as much on property taxes.

State Rep. Nicole Collier, Democrat of Fort Worth said, "I believe that we'll be able to meet the HB 3 need, but there's a greater need because of the pandemic. So that's going to be something that we're going to have to deal with."

State Rep. Michelle Beckley, Democrat of Carrollton expressed concern. "I was not a big supporter of HB 3. I did sign on because it was better than we had. But I think when the final bill came from the Senate, and they take took the funding out of it, I think that we are now going to have a really huge problem with it."

State Rep. Jeff Leach, Republican of Plano said, "Public education is at the top of that list. We will not, I'm confident we will not retreat from the investments that we made in public education last session. But that said, there are going to be some other difficult budget conversations."

State Rep. Charlie Geren, Republican of Fort Worth said, "The priority for me is to maintain the funding that we passed in the 86th Legislature, and I'm going to work very hard to do that. We owe it to public ed."

From public education, to police and criminal justice reform, and the state's response to the pandemic, lawmakers face a lot of important issues.

But the budget is the only bill state lawmakers are required to pass by the end of the session at the end of May.



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