Texas Senate budget writers on Wednesday (March 13) unanimously approved a $195.4 billion state budget that increases funding for public schools, higher education and mental health and avoids the closure of any state parks, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported.
The budget includes a $35 million increase to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD). Parks and Wildlife officials warned in advance of the session that they could be forced to close as many as 20 state parks unless lawmakers provided an adequate boost in funding.
The 2014-15 budget, which will fund state government over the next two fiscal years, calls for a $5.5 billion increase – nearly 3% over current spending. The proposed spending boost, the result of an upsurge in the state’s economy over the past two years, marks a reversal from the 2011 Legislature, when lawmakers were forced to cut spending $15.2 billion in the aftermath of the national recession.
Members of the state Senate Finance Committee applauded after approving the budget by a 15-0 vote. The full 31-member Senate is expected to vote on the spending document next Wednesday, said Committee Chairman Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands.
Williams had vowed not to shutter any state parks.
Lawmakers will craft a final version of the state budget from House and Senate proposals in a joint conference committee before the 2013 Legislature adjourns on May 27. The budget is typically approved in the final days of the Legislature.