The Texas Senate on Tuesday unanimously approved its version of a "landmark" budget bill that includes $9 billion in new money for education and property tax relief.
That figure mirrors the one put forward in a budget passed last month by the House of Representatives. But the two houses differ on how they propose to spend that money, meaning lawmakers will likely need to negotiate a solution in conference committee.
The bill includes a $6.3 billion increase in funding for education and $2.7 million to go toward property tax relief.
"This budget is compassionate, responsible, forward-thinking and it will keep us on a path to a bright future," said Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican and the Senate's lead budget writer.
The Senate favors using $4 billion of the new education funding to give a $5,000 across-the-board raise to teachers and support staff at districts statewide. The House's plan has prioritized giving school districts more discretionary cash to spend either on pay raises or however else they see fit. But last week, the House adopted an amendment to its education funding bill that would earmark 25% of any new education money for raises for teachers and school support staff.
During Tuesday's Senate session, members highlighted dozens of other priorities that were included in the budget, notably $230 million to maintain retired teachers' health benefits and $50 million for new staff and equipment to help shrink the state's backlog in rape kit processing.
Sen. Larry Taylor, a Houston Republican and chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said the investing in education helps solve a range of other issues, including poverty and economic opportunity. When children are offered access to a quality public education, they're more likely to go on to get higher-earning jobs and break multi-generational cycles of poverty, he said.
The additional funding for education that lawmakers included in the budget reflects those priorities, Taylor said.
"This is landmark," Taylor said.
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