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Texans support spending state surplus on public school safety, Medicaid coverage – Houston Public Media

Eric Gay/AP

The dome of the Texas State Capitol.

A new poll shows the majority of Texans support spending a portion of the $33 billion state budget surplus on priorities like increasing public school safety, expanding rural broadband internet access and extending postpartum Medicaid coverage.

The study from the Hobby School of Public Affairs at the University of Houston found a substantial portion of respondents — 46% — indicated they believe the state should save between $10 billion and $19 billion, and 73% of participants indicated support for raising the property tax exemption from $40,000 up to $60,000. Still, a vast majority of those surveyed expressed support for increased spending on issues that impact their daily lives.

“While people do support raising the property tax homestead exemption, there is even higher support for targeted spending to address some of the state’s most pressing problems,” said Renée Cross, senior executive director and researcher at the Hobby School.

Several issues garnered support across party lines. Three fourths of respondents supported extending postpartum Medicaid coverage for 12 months, and 85% supported spending to provide grants for public school safety and security. Over 80% of participants supported exempting baby wipes and both child and adult diapers from sales tax, while 75% of respondents also supported exempting feminine hygiene products from sales tax. More than 80% of respondents supported expanding rural broadband internet services.

“There clearly is a desire among Texans to use much of the projected surplus to directly impact both their own lives and to improve public infrastructure, from providing rural broadband internet to stabilizing the state’s electric grid and fixing its roads,” said Mark P. Jones , senior research fellow at the Hobby School and political science fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. “There was majority support for all of the proposed expenditures we asked about, from all demographic groups, including support from Democrats, Republicans and Independents.”

Researchers believe the poll provides useful insight into what most Texans envision for state spending goals moving forward.

“Approving the budget is the only thing that legislators are required to do during the session,” said Cross. “This poll offers a compelling vision of Texans’ budget priorities.”

The Hobby School plans to conduct subsequent studies examining Texans’ opinions on legislation regulating marijuana, abortion, firearms, elections, immigration and energy.

This survey was conducted between Jan. 9 and Jan. 19, 2023 and included 1,200 Texans.

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