09:29 AM

Texas legislators talk state budget, other priorities at UHCL Pearland

University of Houston-Clear Lake at Pearland hosted the 87th Texas Legislature preview on Dec. 9. Texas Senator Larry Taylor, Rep. Dennis Paul, and Rep. Greg Bonnen were part of a panel, moderated by UH-Clear Lake Pearland Interim Chief Operating Officer Beth Lewis to present their priorities for the Clear Lake, Manvel, Pearland and Alvin areas and to answer questions from the community regarding the legislative session beginning in six weeks.

"It was important for Pearland to host this discussion because we are establishing this location as a community hub for information, education and cultural events in the Pearland region," Lewis said. "It's an opportunity for the community to hear directly from their legislators about their priorities in the upcoming session."

The total livestreamed audience during the live presentation was 4,731, with 9,569 viewers by the next day.

All three legislators agreed the top priority of the session would be to pass the budget. "We don't raise taxes when the economy is down, but we have to spend money more efficiently and reduce," said Taylor. "COVID-19 has affected everything, including the census. We'll have fewer dollars due to COVID, but we were told in March there would be a budget shortfall of about $4.6 billion. It's not as much as that — it's better than it we thought, but it's still worse than it was last year."

He added, "We will be one of the first states to come out of these challenges. I'd rather be no place than Texas. We've done it before, and we'll do it again." The second most pressing priority, Taylor said, was addressing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the recession associated with it.

"For UHCL Pearland, this budget shortfall will likely mean that our request for state funding to finish out the third floor of the Health Sciences Classroom Building may not be approved," Lewis said. "I believe standard operational funding will not be affected; likely this just means that new funding requests might not be granted."

Taylor said that the pandemic has profoundly affected public education and it has changed what we think teaching looks like.

"I appreciate Sen. Taylor's comments about content mastery being more important than grades, and I think this should challenge us to reconsider how we evaluate student learning," Lewis said.

The presentation was livestreamed and can be viewed in its entirety on i45Now on Facebook.