by Brittany Sharp, intern in the Texas Legislative Study Group
First, I want to thank you for taking the time to read this blog. I know that you probably have 15 things on your to-do list, and you will probably only get 5 of those done today if you are lucky. Or maybe I am just projecting my own experience here at the legislature.
As of last week, I have been assigned to be the Legislative Study Group’s Appropriations Committee analyst. The House of Representative’s Appropriations Committee works to pass a state budget, along with the Senate Finance Committee. And as of last week, I feel like I am trying to drink out of a fire hydrant. I have no background in economics, and I can barely stick to the budget I create for myself. My undergraduate degree is in Medical Humanities and Religion. My Masters degree will be in Social Work. I have never read through a budget for a small family, much less the State of Texas. However, I am the type of person who is excited by a challenge, and when people say “Oh. You’re on Appropriations? Good Luck!” I say “Thank you.”
Something that I have noticed in my first few days in Appropriations Committee meetings is the familial feel. At the very first meeting for staffers working the Appropriations Committee this session, Chairman John Zerwas expressed how important it is to lean on the other staffers working with this committee and to get to know one another because “sleep deprivation will happen and no one person can understand the entire budget.” There is an overall understanding that we are all in the same boat. Trying to understand a 989-page document that has things called ‘articles,’ and within those articles ‘sections,’ and within those sections ‘goals,’ and within those goals ‘strategies.’ Navigating all this is why most hours of the day now I feel like I am trying to drink from a fire hydrant.
Luckily, the Executive Director of the Legislative Study Group, Raul Lopez, has covered the budget previously while working in Rep. Armando Walle’s office. He has been extremely helpful to me in making sense of the flood of information that is the state budget.
Currently I am working on comparisons of the introduced version of the House budget, the introduced version of the Senate budget, and the budget for the 2018-19 biennium that passed in the 85th legislature. One thing that is exciting to me about both the House and Senate Budget is that they both propose an increase of funds to the Texas Education Agency. Of course, this could change by the time we get to the final version but it is encouraging that the intent is there.
The Appropriations Committee has the power to control a lot of what can happen in the legislature and outside the Capitol walls. There are very real impacts to what happens in that committee room. Underfunding agencies can have drastic effects on individuals, families and communities. There could be a wonderful bill that passes, but if there is no money to implement that bill no one will benefit from it. If you are interested in looking into the budget the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) has a lot of resources. I look forward to updating you later in the semester about the Appropriations Committee.