AUSTIN, TX — September 1, 2021, is the first day of the new state budget that was approved by the Texas Legislature in May of this year. The state’s $248 billion budget for the next two years fully funds public education, contains investments in higher education, strengthens funding for mental health, and funds many Rio Grande Valley (RGV) priorities.
“One of the most important responsibilities of the Texas Legislature is to pass a two-year state budget that is fiscally responsible and takes care of the needs of Texans across the state,” said Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa.” I was honored to work with my Senate colleagues and with the members of our South Texas legislative delegation to ensure that our RGV priorities remained funded in the budget. Overall, we were successful in maintaining or increasing funding for our priorities.”
RGV priorities that received funding in the state budget include increased funding at UTRGV by $29 million for a total of $364.3 million. This increased funding includes support of the School of Medicine which saw an increase of $3.8 million for a total of $72.8 million. The budget also includes $1.9 million for the Cervical Dysplasia Cancer Immunology Center which will be further enhanced by the recent announcement by UTRGV of their plans to build a new cancer and surgery center in the RGV.
Senator Hinojosa, author of SB 24 in 2013 which created the UTRGV School of Medicine said, “the medical school continues to help us transform the region and increase access to care for our families here at home.” He added, “our delegation continues working to secure the partnerships and investments necessary to fund top notch facilities and recruit world-class doctors for our region.” Funding for the Graduate Medical Education (GME) program, which helps fund doctor residency slots across the state also increased by almost $42 million for a total funding of $199 million. Since 2014, Doctors Hospital at Renaissance and UTRGV School of Medicine have been awarded more than $48 million in GME grants, significantly increasing the number of doctors in South Texas.
The state budget also includes funding for facilities and infrastructure in Hidalgo County. The South Texas International Airport in Edinburg was allocated $5 million which is in addition to the $5 million from the previous budget. These funds will be combined to build a hangar for DPS, the Military Department, and for other emergency response needs in the region. The budget authorizes the Texas Water Development Board to award up to $10 million for the Raymondville Drain project and it directs the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to award $3.5 million for the Center for Urban Ecology at Quinta Mazatlan. “These investments in our facilities and our infrastructure will create jobs and help improve the quality of life in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Senator Hinojosa.
Another accomplishment this past session was the continued funding for Border Infrastructure (Rider 11b) which has led to $60 million per biennium being allocated by the Texas Transportation Commission. “This past year, $17.5 million of Rider 11(b) funds were combined with $4.5 million of RGVMPO funds to fund the Anzalduas bridge project,” said Senator Hinojosa. The budget also includes $500,000 for the Trade Agricultural Inspection Grant Program which will help expedite the flow of commerce and produce at the ports of entry.
The state budget includes funding for border security and public safety including $1 million in grants for the Border Zone Fire Departments; $500,000 for the Texas Transnational Intelligence Center in McAllen; and, $10.1 million for local border security grants.
Lastly, the approved budget increased funding for public education by $2 billion which includes $664 million for targeted programs to help students and schools affected by the pandemic; includes $8.4 billion in behavioral health funding across 25 state agencies; and, includes $1.25 billion for financial aid programs for students enrolled in a higher education institution.
These are just some of the highlights of the funding approved by the Texas Legislature during the 2021 87th Regular Session that go into effect September 1st.