While the Texas legislature will go into special session in July to address several topics that were not resolved during the regular session, Senate Bill 1 (the state general fund bill) was passed by the governor last week. There were several vetoes, but none that directly impact Extension budgets.
As you remember, the budget picture entering this session was not encouraging. State funds declined by 2.7% resulting in a loss of $11 billion in revenue and there were philosophical differences in Austin on how to balance budget short falls.
However, I am pleased to report that overall AgriLife Extension fared better than we anticipated. A high-level overview (for the next biennium FY18-19) includes:
- Healthy South Texas remained in the Health Science Center bill pattern but a rider was added to include Extension in the funding.
- Leadership Development Programming restored ($1,579,766).
- Reversing the Decline of Quail in Texas was maintained for the biennium ($2,000,000).
- Feral Hog Abatement Program was transitioned from Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) to Extension ($900,000).
- Received additional funding support for Volunteer Programs ($320,000).
- Surplus Ag Products Grant Program (Brighter Bites) was transitioned from TDA for student nutrition programs ($1,185,176).
- The hiring freeze mandated by the governor will continue until September 1, 2017, but we are slowing restarting the search process for many vacant positions that will have a start date of September 1 or after.
Moving forward we still have several issues to address, including organizational staffing models, aligning our resources with our expenditures, employee compensation and a new focus on priority programming. However, the final results of this session will allow us to address these topics, and more, without a major reduction in force that was a real possibility due to declining state general revenue.
We are grateful for the leadership provided by the Texas A&M University System Government Relations, Vice Chancellor Mark Hussey and the tireless efforts of Joe Cox and Christina Cornejo (AgriLife Government Relations) during the session. We had several activities held throughout the session that demonstrated the role of Extension in helping Texans better their lives. I am personally most grateful for the privilege to serve as Director and lead an agency of dedicated and passionate employees who provide transformative education that impacts Texas on a daily basis.
Douglas L. Steele, Ph.D.
Director, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
600 John Kimbrough Blvd., Suite 509
7101 TAMU, College Station TX 77843-7101
Tel. 979.845.7967, firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebekah See-Hruska, Assistant to the Director