Texas Legislature Has More Money to Spend

So says Comptroller Glen Hegar. But will education, property tax relief and health care get a fair share of it?

Texas State Comptroller Glen Hegar, on Monday, released the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), showing the Texas Legislative Houses just how much money they can spend for the 20-21 biennium. He says the number is $119.1 billion, for general-purpose spending. That, he says, is 8.1% more that was available for the 2018-19 biennium. At least some of the increase is pretty obvious, the state has been pumping a lot of oil, particularly through fracking. Most of it is in the Permian Basin around Midland and Odessa. Production taxes on that petroleum, along with other attached economic engines, has put a lot of money in state coffers.

Hegar also said that the Economic Stabilization (rainy day) Fund, gets its hefty share of that and will reach an all-time high of $15.4 billion this time. The curious thing we wonder is, “What is the rainy day fund money for anyway?” The state never has allocated any significant relief funding for the Gulf Coast’ after Hurricane Harvey.  Hurricane Harvey was a pretty rainy day!

At any rate, there are lots of places the state could spend its extra money in the new biennium, and there are plenty of lobbyists and groups clamoring for it. The state school finance system appears to rank 36th in the nation in per-pupil spending, and because of low funding to the school districts from the state, much of the burden of school cost has been shifted to taxpayer property taxes.

Taxpayer complaints have had the ear of legislators and the governor, but so far their only action has been to put up barriers to the schools’ ability to raise taxes. Schools hope that state-funding will be increased in the new biennium, and taxpayers hope that increased state funding will indeed lower their tax bills.