Welfare Limit

In 1995, the Texas legislature passed landmark legislation, House Bill 1863, in anticipation of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA). House Bill 1863 established time limits and work requirements for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients. House Bill 1863 also laid the foundation for the current Texas welfare, workforce development and subsidized child care systems.

The changes created by House Bill 1863 and implemented over the following five years were in line with three overriding philosophies in Texas government:

  • Local control
  • Smaller, more efficient government
  • An emphasis on work and individual responsibility

Texas established local level management of more programs than most other states — including TANF Employment and Training (Choices), Workforce Investment Act, other workforce development programs and child care. Texas has, however, retained central administration of TANF eligibility determination, benefits disbursement or sanctions imposition, through the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

New requirements under House Bill 1863 supported the use of public assistance as a temporary benefit.  Under the bill, adult TANF recipients are subject to time-limited benefits as short as one year, for the most highly educated and job ready, followed by a five-year “freeze-out”. Welfare Reform in Texas emphasized the importance of working, the temporary nature of public assistance and the belief that parents are responsible for the care and well-being of their families. Caseloads dropped substantially after 1996.
Texas Workforce Commission – Texas Welfare Reform

In 1945 voters passed a [outdated] constitutional amendment limiting the state funds appropriated for assistance grants on behalf of needy dependent children and their caretakers (i.e., Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF] shall not exceed 1% of the state budget in any biennium


  • Amend the Texas Constitution so TANF is 5% of the state budget
  • Repeal 62.0515 of the Texas constitution so cities can set minimum wage


Texas Constitution
Code – The Texas Constitution
Article 3 – Legislative Department
Section 51(A) – Assistance Grants and Medical Care for Needy, Aged, Disabled and Blind Persons and and Needy Children


Texas Legislative Budget Board – Constitutional Spending Limits

CPPP – A New Welfare to Work Approach to Texas

Welfare Reform in Texas Has Not Worked, According to University of Texas at Austin Researchers

Think Progress – The Single Worst Idea From 1990s Welfare Reform Is Finally Dying

CPPP – TANF at 10: Was Welfare Reform a Success in Texas?

The Austin Chronicle – Welfare Reform, Texas-Style

NCSL – Welfare: State Family Cap Policies

League of Women Voters Texas – Financing State Government; The Budget and Taxes

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