Medicaid expansion, federal coronavirus aid could spur legislative fights as Texas House debates $246 billion state budget


Last Updated on April 22, 2021 – 10:00 AM CDT

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune: Read More

Newly elected Speaker of the House Dade Phelan addresses the House Floor on opening day of the Legislative Session on Jan. 12, 2021.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan addressed the chamber on opening day of the Legislative Session in January. The House is expected to debate its proposed state budget Thursday.

Credit: Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune

The Texas House on Thursday is slated to consider its two-year, $246 billion budget proposal in what could be the chamber’s most animated debate yet this legislative session.

House members have filed nearly 240 proposed tweaks to the massive spending plan and are expected to spend hours taking votes on controversial issues ranging from Medicaid expansion to border security.

Another potential point of contention: What to do with tens of billions of dollars in federal funding for coronavirus relief.

The House gavels in at 10 a.m. We’ll update this page throughout the day. And we’re also providing a livestream of the debate.

Watch live as the House debates its proposed two-year state budget

April 22, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

The House gavels in at 10 a.m. Thursday, though debate on the proposed budget may not begin until after that.

With hundreds of amendments, heated debate is almost certain

April 22, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

House members have pre-filed nearly 240 amendments ahead of Thursday’s debate, which will likely make for contentious moments in the chamber as controversial proposals are all but certain to bel brought up.

One issue that’s gained attention in recent days is Medicaid coverage expansion, particularly on the heels of news last week that the state may lose a funding agreement, known as a 1115 waiver, that would have extended Texas’ health care safety net for uninsured residents.

Texas leaders for years have fought to keep the waiver — which doesn’t provide comprehensive health care coverage, drug coverage or other services covered by Medicaid — while resisting expanding Medicaid. A bill authored by state Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton, this session has gained bipartisan support from a majority of House members. And state Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, is expected to push an amendment during Thursday’s budget debate that would “reduce the number of uninsured Texans.”

Lawmakers still haven’t figured out what to do with federal coronavirus aid

April 22, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

As The Tribune’s Ross Ramsey noted this morning, questions remain about how tens of billions of dollars in coronavirus relief aid should be used — and whether it will arrive in time for state lawmakers to use this legislative session.

A proposal by House Appropriations Chair Greg Bonnen, a Friendswood Republican, would create a board that includes the lieutenant governor, House speaker and budget leaders in the two chambers to oversee how that aid is doled out during the legislative interim. That legislation, House Bill 2021, was voted out of committee earlier this week. But it’s unclear whether it will make it to the full House for consideration in the coming weeks.

Even after House approval, a lot will still have to be worked out

April 22, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

Earlier this month, the Senate unanimously approved its own proposed 2022-2023 budget, which included $117.9 billion in general revenue but did not factor in tens of billions of dollars in federal funding for coronavirus aid.

Once the House gives a final sign off to Senate Bill 1, the legislation will head to a conference committee for the two chambers to iron out differences before the Legislature adjourns at the end of May.

Both budget proposals are billions over what Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar in January projected lawmakers would have to work with. That means the two chambers will have to cut down their spending plans or rely on accounting maneuvers to help offset some of those expenses.

Lawmakers also have a shortfall to fill in this year’s budget

April 22, 2021 at 5:00 a.m.

On top of passing a 2022-2023 state budget, the Legislature will also have to shore up a shortfall the coronavirus pandemic’s accompanying recession left in the current budget. Hegar, the state’s comptroller, delivered rosier-than-expected news in January, when he estimated the Legislature would face an almost $1 billion deficit for the current budget instead of a $4.6 billion projection he made in July 2020. Hegar cautioned though that his projection, which he could modify again before lawmakers gavel out, was “clouded in uncertainty” due to the pandemic.

House members are also set to debate their proposed spending plan for the current budget on that Thursday, though that conversation is expected to be shorter and less controversial.