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Government/Politics

House Budget Writers Get Optimistic Report From Comptroller

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Ryan E. Poppe
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Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar

With oil revenues down and job losses across multiple sectors of the state’s economy, lawmakers are looking at available money going into next year’s legislative session.  But Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar is optimistic about the Texas economy and how much money the legislature will have during the 2017 session.

Five years ago the price of oil was close to $90 a barrel and climbing.  In the past year, the price of oil and gas has been cut in half, leading to thousands of job layoffs and in some cases bankruptcy.  The tax the state receives from oil and gas companies is one of the main sources that feeds the state’s economy.

Dayton Republican Rep. John Otto, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said budget writers face a number of legislative challenges next session.

“The state’s foster care system is in crisis, the state’s school finance system again awaits a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court.  Any of these issues individually would pose a challenge, yet they come at a time when our state continues to grow rapidly bringing more children in our schools, more cars on our roads and a greater demand for state resources," Otto warned.

Speaking before the committee Tuesday, Hegar was not so quick to issue a dismal picture of the state economy.

“We have lost 60,000 jobs in the mining industry, we have lost another 40,000 in the manufacturing industry in the last year and yet Texas as an overall has gained more than 185,000 jobs in that same 12-month period," Hegar said.

Some on the Appropriations Committee who are taking a more cautious approach, have warned the agencies whose budgets they oversee to expect at least a 10 percent budget cut.

Last October, Hegar predicted that lawmakers would have $2.7 billion less to spend in 2017, but now says he would like to wait a few more months before releasing his latest prediction.