Reduced Waits for Driver’s Licenses, Raises for State Workers in Texas Budget OKed by House Panel

AUSTIN - Shorter waits for driver’s licenses and money to put a new state mental hospital for Dallas back on the drawing board were among highlights of a two-year state budget that won tentative approval from a House panel on Tuesday.The University of Texas at Dallas’ favorite fund for jump-starting research at the state’s “emerging universities” also was a big winner, receiving more ongoing funding and a one-time infusion of money from the state's rainy-day fund -- mostly generated by energy-production taxes -- to cover a backlog of projects.The House’s budget package, which envisions tapping more than $5 billion in rainy-day money and includes an emergency spending bill to fill holes in the current cycle’s budget, has other big winners, including retired teachers, state workers -- and Texas children.In the emergency or “supplemental appropriation” bill, retired teachers would receive a “13th check,” their first inflation adjustment in several years.The one-time payment of $2,400, financed by about $660 million from state savings and a slightly larger sum from available revenue, is possible because of the state’s strong economy, according to House Appropriations chief Rep. John Zerwas.The House’s spending blueprint for 2020-2021 would give most state workers a 2.8-percent a year cost of living adjustment, he said. There would be bigger raises for a few selected categories, Zerwas said, mentioning Adult Protective Services workers.  Continue reading...

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