In the Texas Legislature, only one bill is required to pass each session: the state budget.
Because the Legislature only meets once every two years, budgets are designed to fund state agencies for two-year intervals. Currently, state lawmakers are working on creating a budget for 2020 and 2021.
Every entity that receives state funding — including The University of Texas system and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles — submits a request to the comptroller and members of the Legislature for the amount of funding they would like to receive for the next two years. A stipulation in the Texas Constitution mandates the state budget can never exceed the amount of money the state has available to spend.
A first draft of the state budget is created by the Legislative Budget Board, which is composed of Texas House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and other key members of the Legislature. Next, the House and Senate create their own versions of the budget that emphasize their own priorities.
UT-Austin asked the Legislative Budget Board for about $600 million for both 2020 and 2021. The House version of the budget dedicates about $424 million in funding to UT for 2020, while the Senate’s draft offers $422 million.
This $2 million difference is small in the context of more significant rifts between the House and Senate’s budget proposals, but discrepancies like this are usually worked out in a conference committee between members of both chambers.
After the conference committee finishes straightening out the differences between the House and Senate drafts of the budget and each chamber votes to approve it, the bill is sent to Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office for approval. The budget is the only bill that requires approval by the comptroller — an elected official who oversees tax collection and budget management.
When Hegar’s office is done reviewing the bill, it will then issue a formal “certification.” The certification is only issued if the budget requires no more money than the biennial revenue estimate, a measure of the state’s spending money.
Finally, after the bill is approved by Hegar and the legislature, the budget — like any other bill — must be signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott. In Texas, the governor has the ability to remove certain things from the budget — called a line-item veto — giving him or her a final chance to influence spending decisions before the budget goes into effect.