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Sen. Hinojosa, Sen. Zaffirini begin work on developing Senate version of Texas state budget - Zaffirini - Titans of the Texas Legislature

FEATURED: Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo/Starr County, and Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, will be directly shaping the Texas state budget over the next couple of months as members of the Senate Finance Committee. Hinojosa, who is Vice-Chair, and Zaffirini serve on the 17-member Senate Finance Committee.

Photograph By SENATE MEDIA


Sen. Hinojosa, Sen. Zaffirini begin work on developing Senate version of Texas’ two-year state budget

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The legislative influence of Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, and Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo/Starr County, will be in full force during the next few months as they play direct roles on the Senate Finance Committee in shaping Texas’ two-year state budget. 

The state budget covers the period from Friday, September 1, 2023 through Sunday August 31, 2025.

According to the Texas Tribune, Texas is projected to have $188.2 billion available in general revenue for funding the business of the state over the 2024-25 biennium – an unprecedented 26 percent increase from what lawmakers had during the last budget cycle, Texas Comptroller Glen Hegar, a Republican, said Monday, January 9, 2023, in his biennial revenue estimate to legislative leaders.

Hinojosa, Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and Zaffirini are part of the 17-member legislative panel.

On Monday, January 30, 2023, the Senate Finance Committee held its first public hearing of the 140-day regular session of the 88th Texas Legislature, which began on Tuesday, January 10, 2023 and ends on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

The Texas Legislature is the lawmaking body of the State of Texas, which consists of two chambers, the 150-member House of Representatives and the 31-member Senate.

According to Hinojosa:

• Senate Bill 1, as filed, already includes $15 billion for property tax relief, of which $3 billion will be used to increase the homestead exemption from $40,000 to $70,000.

At its core, a Texas homestead exemption is basically a tax break for qualifying homeowners. It’s one of the many perks of buying and owning a home in the Lone Star State. A homestead exemption allows a homeowner to “write down” the property value of the home, which reduces the property taxes.

A bill is a type of legislative measure that requires passage by both the Senate and House of Representatives and action by the governor in order to become effective. A bill is the primary means used to create and change the laws of the state.

“Filed” is used to refer to a measure that has been introduced into the legislative process and given a number.

• Senate Bill 1 also includes $650 million for community colleges to increase student performance and workforce training, $600 million for school safety initiatives, billions of dollars across agencies to support mental health initiatives, and salary increases for state employees.

“These are just some examples of the investments already included in the budget,” Hinojosa said. “I remain committed to using this opportunity with historic revenues to provide property tax relief, increasing salaries for teachers, state employees, and peace officers.”

Senate Bill 1 as filed “is just a starting point,” Hinojosa emphasized.

The Senate Finance Committee hearing that began Monday morning, January 30, 2023 is the first of many public hearings and meetings that will take place over the next few months to decide how the record surplus revenue will be spent for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025. 

“I also look forward to supporting our retired teachers and investing in our roads, broadband, water and drainage infrastructure, and the electric grid,” the District 20 lawmaker continued. “These public hearings are an opportunity for the members of the Senate Finance Committee to hear invited testimony from all state agencies and to get the public’s input on how our tax dollars should be allocated.”

He encourages the members of the public to attend the hearings in person or view the live and videotaped public meetings “to provide input as we move forward with the budget writing process.” 

The public hearings on Senate Bill 1 will continue through Friday, February 17, 2023.

The Senate Finance Committee is being led by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who was named Chair in January of 2022 by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. 

Additional information and a list of agendas with the agencies scheduled to testify, can be found at:

The Senate Finance Committee develops the proposed state budget for action by the Texas Senate.

The House Appropriations Committee develops the proposed state budget for action by the House of Representatives. 

The House of Representatives will soon appoint members to the House Appropriations Committee. When organized, the House Appropriations Committee will undergo a similar process hearing from all state agencies and also seeking input from the public.

Once the budget is approved by the full Senate –  typically in late March or early April – members must enter negotiations with the House, who also filed the first draft of their spending plan on Wednesday, January 18, 2023.

The Senate and the House of Representatives eventually come up with a compromise from both budgets, and send that final version to the governor for his required action.

They will have until the session ends on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 to present a final, unified version of the budget to Gov. Greg Abbott, who has the power to kill any portion, or all, of the state budget approved by the Texas Legislature.

Lt. Gov. Patrick outlines his vision for the state budget, which are featured in the first version of Senate Bill 1

Texans would see their homestead exemption almost double under the first draft of the state budget filed in the Senate on Wednesday, January 18, 2023, according to Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican from Houston.

Homeowners could write off $70,000 in taxable value on their homes, up from the current $40,000, at a total cost to the state of $3 billion.

Another $12 billion has been set aside for the purpose of reducing property taxes through additional legislation.

That’s almost half of the $32 billion surplus projected to be left in the state treasury when the current biennium ends on August 31, 2023. 

In all, Senate Bill 1 proposes to spend $130 billion in discretionary state revenue on services through 2025. 

“Senate Bill 1 keeps our promises to Texans and charts a course for our state’s continued prosperity,” said Patrick. “Our conservative budgeting principles applied throughout Senate Bill 1 make sure that government does not grow faster than population times inflation.”

In addition to the billions in property tax relief, the budget follows closely the priorities laid out by Patrick late last year. It includes $350 million in additional funding to rural sheriffs departments and other rural law enforcement. It sets aside $2.5 billion to pay for a new permanent fund for more institutions of higher education, similar to the Permanent University Fund that is only available to the University of Texas and Texas A&M systems. 

Those amounts are on top of almost $10 billion for formula funding for four-year institutions of higher education and $650 million for reforms in the state’s community college systems. 

The bill also includes $9 billion in spending for mental health services across 26 state agencies, including millions to hire new staff at state hospitals, for more community-based in-patient beds, and mental health jail diversion programs. 

For state roads and bridges, it would direct more than $35 billion to transportation infrastructure and half a billion dollars toward port and ship channel improvements. It includes $400 million to fund a restoration of the Alamo. 

The Senate also proposes to spend $4.8 billion on Operation Lone Star, the state’s border security operation.

This is the first budget bill filed by incoming Senate Finance Chair Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston.

She succeeds former Flower Mound Republican senator and current Secretary of State Jane Nelson, who in 2014 became the first woman appointed to lead a legislative appropriations committee in Texas. 

Huffman has been Patrick’s go-to lawmaker for sticky, complicated fiscal legislation. 

In past sessions she has authored and passed bills with broad bipartisan consensus to fix pension shortfalls in the Houston municipal system as well as the massive state employee and teacher retirement systems. 

Huffman’s Senate Bill 1 includes more pension fixes, directing nearly $900 million to pay off unfunded liabilities in state pension programs for law enforcement officers and judges, as well as billions to pay for pension reforms passed in previous sessions. 

In a statement accompanying the filing, Huffman told members that her bill is just the first draft of what will become the Senate’s spending plan for the next biennium. 

“We have an obligation to the people of Texas to continue our state’s incredible trajectory by making investments that will keep Texas as the best place to live, work, and raise a family,” she said. “The base budget is a starting point, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to develop a conservative and sustainable budget that addresses our needs and strengthens our economy.”

Session video and all other Senate webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website’s Audio/Video Archive.


For more on this and other Texas legislative news stories that affect the Rio Grande Valley metropolitan region, please log on to Titans of the Texas Legislature (

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