The following testimony was submitted to the Texas House Committee on Appropriations
Texas 2036 strongly supports funding for the Legislative branch of Texas government. We also encourage this body to use this rare focus on the Article X budget to review the impact that a rising cost-of-living in the Austin metro area is having on the Legislature, specifically its impact on recruitment and retention of a qualified workforce. As you review the Article X budget, we offer the following data points for consideration:
- The current median Article X staff salary is $54,000 per year. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, the 2019 median personal income per capita in the Austin metro area was $61,977. The current Article X staff salary is nearly 15% lower than the 2019 median personal income.
- According to the Federal Reserve’s Housing Price Index, housing costs in the Austin metro area have tripled since 2000 and gone up nearly 50% since the last widespread Article X staff pay raise in Fall 2015. Staff pay, in aggregate, has not kept up the cost of living in the Austin area.
- Adjusting for inflation, not accounting for population growth or the disproportionate cost increases associated with Austin living, HB 1 proposes to spend 3.3% less on Article X than the state did in the 2000-01 General Appropriations Act.
Although impacts of the rising cost-of-living may not be apparent now, the trend lines show a continued increase in the Austin metro area. Many Article X jobs functionally require staff to work in the Austin area, with little realistic opportunity to work outside of the increasingly pricey Austin area.
During the regular session, through the passage of SB 321 the Legislature made investments in the retirement fund for all state employees, which will benefit Article X staff. Continued investments in our hardworking Article X staff will yield long-term benefits and ensure the legislative branch of government is continuing to serve the taxpayers of Texas in the best way possible.