As state lawmakers in Austin try to figure out how to spend a massive budget surplus in the coming months, San Antonio will be well represented on the committee tasked with making major spending decisions.

Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, both Democrats, and Steve Allison, a Republican, were named to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. Martinez Fischer also chairs the Texas House Democratic Caucus.

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar projected last month Texas would have $188.2 billion available in general revenue for the 2024-25 biennium — a 26% increase from the previous budget cycle, the Texas Tribune reported. The number includes a $32.7 billion surplus from the previous budget cycle.

“With Texas families struggling to afford the basic necessities due to record inflation, we have an unprecedented opportunity to provide relief and real investment in our communities with our budget’s $33 billion surplus and record-breaking $27 billion in the Rainy Day Fund,” Martinez Fischer said in a statement. 

“I am committed to ensuring that this money goes towards providing relief that benefits all Texans, not just the few, and that we create long-term investments,” he said.

Seats on the spending committee are coveted, and San Antonio lost its last appropriator when Democrat Ina Minjarez left the House to run unsuccessfully for Bexar County judge.

“It’s always important to have a seat at that table, but especially so in a session that has such a large budget surplus to work with,” said San Antonio Assistant City Manager Jeff Coyle, who previously served as the city’s chief lobbyist.

Unlike Congress, where the two political parties get to appoint their own representatives to committees, the party in power in Austin gets broad authority over committee assignments.

Leading up to Wednesday’s announcement, House Speaker Dade Phelan had been under pressure from some members of his own party to use that power to lock Democrats out of key positions.

Of the 37 committee chairs, 28 went to Republicans.

“These assignments were made after careful consideration and extensive reflection, taking into account the committee preferences expressed by each member as well as the diverse talents they bring to the table — a combination that will help drive our chamber’s success and impact on issues facing Texans this legislative session,” Phelan said in a statement.

Allison, the delegation’s longest-serving Republican, was also assigned to the Public Education Committee and the Local and Consent Calendars Committee. The former Alamo Heights Independent School District board president will continue to serve on the House Select Committee on Youth Health and Safety, tasked with addressing school safety in the wake of several deadly mass shootings.

San Antonio Rep. Ray Lopez, a Democrat, will serve as vice chair of the Defense and Veterans Affairs Committee. He’ll be joined on the committee by freshmen Reps. Josey Garcia, a Democrat, and Mark Dorazio, a Republican.

Dorazio was among the Republicans pushing Phelan to keep Democrats from chairing committees.

Freshman Rep. John Lujan, whose campaign got funding support from Phelan, will serve as vice chair of the Juvenile Justice and Family Issues Committee. Rep. Liz Campos, a Democrat, was named vice chair of the Public Health Committee.

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Andrea Drusch

Andrea Drusch writes about local government for the San Antonio Report. She's covered politics in Washington, D.C., and Texas for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, National Journal and Politico.