Texas Lawmakers To Begin Legislative Session With Budget Gap
State lawmakers who begin meeting Tuesday in Austin are bracing for a debate over where to cut current services.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Monday said the legislature will have just $104.87 billion in state funds to spend on the next two year budget. Budget experts say that leaves a gap of $5 to $6 billion that would be needed to pay for services at their current levels.
“The upcoming legislature does face some challenges given our projections of a decline in available revenue from this biennium to the next,” Hegar said.
Hegar pinned much of the revenue shortfall on a drop in oil and gas tax revenues which plummeted by more than 50 percent this past year.
“I felt like, we felt like, and many economists felt like Texas would have turned the corner earlier. However, it lagged much longer than we thought,” he said, adding that he expects oil prices to tick up in the near future.
Hegar said up to $5 billion in sales tax money that lawmakers have dedicated to highways also eats into spending on other services.
The call for belt tightening comes as the Governor and some lawmakers want to cut taxes. The legislature is also awaiting a judge’s ruling on costly improvements to foster care and child protective services, and school districts continue to ask for additional money to meet state education requirements.