Numbers released by the Texas comptroller’s office suggest that once the legislative session begins, lawmakers will have more money to work with as they shape the state's budget.
Comptroller Glenn Hegar said at the state Capitol that legislators will have $119.1 billion dollars with which to plan out the next two years of spending, according to the biennial revenue estimate report, which serves as a crystal ball for legislators who must decide what to spend on various state programs and agencies.
Hegar said tax collections in 2018 finished 10.5 percent ahead of 2017 totals, while growth and tax revenue through the first quarter of fiscal 2019 remained solid. That's good news because lawmakers have much to budget for during this session, including school finance reform, and rebuilding efforts and infrastructure needs related to Hurricane Harvey.
Some at the Capitol have hinted at using a portion of the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund — or Rainy Day Fund — to pay down some of those added state expenses.
“Without any further appropriations from the fund, the balance in the ESF will stand at a record of $15 billion dollars by the next biennium,” Hegar said.
But with oil still trading at less than $100 a barrel, Hegar urged lawmakers to exercise caution since the state grows the fund through the collection of taxes related to the production of oil and gas.
“Continued low prices or further declines could lead to reduced activity in the energy sector which will affect not just severance tax collection, but other taxes as well like the state’s sales and franchise taxes,” Hegar said.
Along with an increase in state revenue, lawmakers have $4.2 billion left over from the last legislative session. Hegar said that could help reduce the amount of money that might be withdrawn from the rainy day fund.
Lawmakers begin the start of their 140-day session on Tuesday.