AUSTIN - Hours before the 85th session of the Texas Legislature starts, the Texas Comptroller revealed that state lawmakers will have a lot less discretionary money to move around over the next two years.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar's revealed Monday in his "Biennial Review Estimate" that lawmakers will have $104.87 billion in state funds for the two-year budget. According to the Texas Tribune, that's a significant decrease from the last session two years ago.
Economists are predicting the state is going to close its current two-year budget with a surplus of around $2 billion, which may sound like a lot. But in comparison, the state had an $8 billion surplus at the start of the 2015 legislative session.
The number was originally predicted to be about $4.5 billion, but sinking oil prices have slashed the surplus by driving down production tax collections by 50 percent in fiscal year 2016. Advanced planning well ahead of each budget year is key to keeping the state from sinking into a deficit when things like this happen.
Ray Perryman, an economist, spoke with KVUE last April when the review planning began.
"I don't think they'll come back to just be sustained at the levels they were at a couple of years ago, but nonetheless I think they'll come back to a very healthy level that will make for a very healthy oil and gas industry," Perryman said. "But that's likely to start later in the year and gain momentum in 2017, which would be a little bit too late probably to help a lot with the upcoming budget."
The oil and gas industry still hasn't seen significant rebounding.
House and senate committees have already been preparing for tapered budgets. Certain projects that aren't priorities could get pushed aside.
But Hegar does think there's enough money to cover the current budget.
According to the Texas Tribune, Center for Public Policy Priorities is predicting the state will need about 3 percent more in general revenue in order to cover unforeseen expenses not originally covered in the budget.
Gov. Greg Abbott issued the following statement after Hegar's announcement:
“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.”
(© 2017 KVUE)