Rep. Oscar Longoria’s appointment to influence the state’s budget

Speaker of the House Joe Straus named state Rep. Oscar Longoria this week as one of his four appointees to the powerful Legislative Budget Board which is tasked with recommending a budget to the legislature before the session begins next year.

Longoria, D-La Joya, said he was humbled by Straus’ appointment and looks forward to the task at hand, which will once again prove challenging as the state grapples with a shortfall.

“We’re going to start with a lot less money than what we had this prior legislative session. That’s going to be a given,” Longoria said, citing the latest numbers released by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts. “It’s always challenging each session, but this session will be challenging because of the prior economic downfall that we had.”

The state owes more than $1.8 billion to the Texas Department of Transportation, and coupled with unforeseen expenditures, such as those stemming from Hurricane Harvey, the shortfall could total more than $12 billion, state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa estimated last month.

“We have to work with what we have,” Longoria said. “We don’t have a bottomless pit of money.”

Straus praised Longoria in a prepared statement.

“Rep. Longoria has provided strong leadership as vice chair of the appropriations committee,” the Speaker said. “Last year he played a key role in advancing priorities such as education, child protection and mental health care. As a member of the LBB, he will help the House prepare for a challenging session in 2019.”

Longoria, who was recently elected to a fourth term, expects the board, which comprises five members from each chamber, will begin the process in early fall.

“There has to be a draft developed before the session starts to be able to work with that document,” he said.

And his appointment to do so gives the Rio Grande Valley a stronger voice in the political arena, Longoria said.

“It shows that South Texas is being respected by the entire state,” he said. “I’m just going to go and work hard and do whatever it takes to make sure we get our fair share here in the Rio Grande Valley.”

nlopez@themonitor.com