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Texas Republican leaders on Friday said they were extending funding for the Legislature for “an additional month of funding” as a deadline to reinstate those funds vetoed by Gov. Greg Abbott nears, that could cost some 2,100 state workers their salaries and benefits.
It was not immediately clear how much funding is being moved, where those dollars are coming from in the state budget and what mechanism under state law leaders are using to redistribute those funds.
The news, announced Friday by Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, comes a day ahead of the beginning of a second special session, where it’s still unknown whether enough state lawmakers in the lower chamber will convene in time to restore the funding long term.
In a statement, Abbott said that the funding was “being temporarily restored for Legislative staff that will be necessary to pass critical legislation on the call” for the second special session.
The funding issue stems from a veto from Abbott after House Democrats first broke quorum in the final hours of the regular legislative session that ended in May, which prevented the chamber from passing a GOP elections bill. Abbott vetoed a section of the state budget, Article X, that funds the Legislature, its staff and legislative agencies.
The extension announced Friday means that those legislative employees as well as legislative agencies will have funding intact through Sept. 30 instead of Sept. 1, when the next two-year state budget takes effect.
Abbott placed restoring the funding of the Legislature on both the first and now second special session agenda. Plans to pass legislation to address the issue during the first overtime round that ended Friday were derailed after House Democrats broke quorum a second time to block the controversial elections legislation.
If enough members are present to conduct official business in the House when the Legislature reconvenes for a second special session, lawmakers could pass a supplemental budget to restore funding. It would also need a sign off from Abbott before it could go into effect.
The issue could also be resolved by the Texas Supreme Court, where a group that includes legislative Democrats has asked the all-Republican court to override Abbott’s veto.
Should time run out before lawmakers pass legislation or the court weighs in, the salaries and benefits for over 2,100 employees will be at risk, as House Administration Chair Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, noted in a July 26 memo that also detailed a number of other services and contracts that could be terminated.
“The implications to the operation of the House are significant,” Metcalf wrote, outlining the legislative business that could be canceled if funding is not restored, such as lease payments for members’ district offices, office supplies and cleaning services for the House.
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