AUSTIN - The State of Texas is going to be on a tight budget. That was the takeaway from Comptroller Glenn Hegar's biennial review estimate, which he presented Monday morning at the Capitol.
Hegar said the decrease in money allocated for general spending is not because of a drop in the amount of money coming in, in fact, he's projecting revenue growth. But the state will start budgeting with less money and some of it is already dedicated to other things.
Hegar estimates lawmakers will have a total of $104.87 billion to build budgets for 2018 and 2019. That's about $3 billion less than 2016 and 2017 when the total revenue available for general spending was $107.73 billion.
According to Hegar, the state had $7.29 billion dollars going in to 2016, but that dropped to $1.53 billion in 2018-2019.
While the revenue coming in is more than years passed, $61.97 billion compared to $56.83 billion, Hegar noted the 2015 voter-approved Proposition 7 which allocates sales tax to the State Highway Fund goes into effect in 2018. He estimates the state will have to put $4.71 billion into the State Highway Fund in 2018 and 2019. Plus, the Hegar estimates putting $3.13 billion into the Rainy Day Fund, which is $1.13 more than the previous biennium.
Hegar said another reason there will be less money is because of the sales tax coming in from mining, which in Texas is made up of the oil and gas industry, dropped nearly 50 percent.
As Hegar made his presentation, one thing was clear to lawmakers, money will be tight.
"What those figures reflect is we do not have accommodation for the current, for the current shortfall that we have. Whether it be Medicaid...or other needs in the supplemental budget," said state Rep. Drew Darby (R-San Angelo).
Darby, the former Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, is expected to resume that role this legislative session. He estimates the budget shortfall is between $4-5 billion.
"It could have been worse, it is what it is and we'll deal with the aspects of this budget as we move forward. This budget is going to reflect the priorities of Texas and so I'm anxious to work on those priorities," said Darby.
Even with the less than ideal numbers, Hegar noted the Texas is still outperforming other states.
Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement on the estimate:
“Texans expect their government to live within its means, and I fully expect to sign a budget that does just that. As fiscal conservatives, we must treat our state budget the way families do – by funding our priorities, while constraining the size and growth of government. I will work with the Legislature this session to craft a budget that funds our most vital services without growing faster than the growth of population and inflation.”
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