“Look at those beautiful homes,” State Rep. Dan Huberty said, pointing through the glass windows at Walden Country Club to the line of homes just off the fairway. “They all flooded after Harvey.”
Huberty spoke to Lake Houston Chamber members at the annual State of the State luncheon at Walden on Lake Houston on Oct. 25.
“We’re making improvements to Lake Houston. Dredging the San Jacinto is underway, but we need to fix what’s going on upstream, too,” he said.
While bragging on Texas’ dynamic economy, Huberty also pointed out the challenges that face the state as he prepares for next year’s legislative session.
“When I travel to other states for business,” he said, “I realize how well Texas is doing. We have natural gas and oil. Our sales tax revenue is up 10.5 percent. Our oil and gas revenue is up 56 percent. Unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been.”
And yet there are huge financial pressures on the legislators as they gather in Austin next year.
– Many financial challenges when lawmakers gather in Austin –
“We lost at least $1 billion in property values because of Harvey. We’re short $2 billion in Medicaid funding,” he said, “and we need additional funding to make sure we fix our flooding problems.”
Huberty then ticked off a list of topics that representatives will face in next year’s session, including education, school safety, border security, health care and the selection of a new speaker.
As Education Committee chair, Huberty’s committee is reviewing the school finance formula which, he pointed out, was created in 1981 when Humble ISD had fewer than 20,000 students.
“We need to make sure every third grader can read and to fix that, we’ll need at least $2 billion,” he said. “If teachers want to make more money, they go into administration. We need to fix that incentive, too.”
“Who ever thought if we send our kids to school, they may not come back,” Huberty said. “It’s our responsibility to keep kids safe from bullying. We need twice the number of counselors and social workers than we have now.”
That price tag, he said, is $400 million.
Huberty also touched on border security costs – $800 million a year – and the caravans coming up from Central America. “These desperate families are being used to tie up our border patrol officers so traffickers can sneak in drugs.”
Regarding health care, Huberty pointed out that health care now represents a larger chunk of the state budget than education.
“When my committee met with the Teacher Retirement System, their prescription drug costs were $700 million,” he said. “We suggested going out for bids. They did. They saved $200 million.”
And for the first time that he could recall, Huberty said the all-important post of house speaker is up for grabs.
“Six people are running for it, all friends of mine,” he said. “In November, our caucus will get together to decide who we will support.”
And Huberty’s choice?
“I want the speaker who will allow me to represent you,” he responded. “I was accosted by three different people recently telling me who I should support. I’ll be frank. I’m a Republican, but I work for everyone in the district and what is important to me is to represent my district and support education and flood prevention.”
“You can pull me, not push me,” Huberty concluded.
The chamber will “Salute Small Business” at the November luncheon, Thursday, Nov. 29, 11:30 a.m. at the Golf Club of Houston on Wilson Road in Fall Creek. For more information or to register, call 281-446-2128 or visit lakehouston.org.