Texas' economic rebound boosts state revenue

Posted Monday, Jan. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

Key dates

The 83rd session of the Texas Legislature will run for 140 days.

Jan. 8

Session begins

March 8

Deadline for filing bills and joint resolutions other than local bills and emergency measures

May 27

Last day of the session

June 16

Last day the governor may sign or veto bills passed during the regular session

Aug. 26

Date that bills without specific effective dates become law

Info: Texas Legislative Council: www.tlc.state.tx.us

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AUSTIN - An unexpectedly large rise in revenue means the incoming 83rd Legislature will have $101.4 billion available for general purpose spending over the next two years thanks to "a very strong rebound" from the national recession, State Comptroller Susan Combs said Monday.

The much-anticipated revenue estimate by the state's chief financial officer provides a starting point for lawmakers as they write a state budget for the next two years.

State House and Senate members open their 140-day biennial session at noon Tuesday. Although lawmakers will deal with hundreds of issues, financing the operations of state government is the legislature's fundamental task.

The Texas budget is made up of both state and federal funds. Combs' estimate applies to state general purpose revenue that legislators will have available for the 2014-15 biennium that starts Sept. 1.

Combs said net general revenue from taxes, fees and other income will total $92.6 billion after a $3.6 billion transfer to the State's rainy day fund.

Coupled with an $8.8 billion ending balance from the current biennium, lawmakers will have an estimated $101.4 billion for general purpose spending for the next biennium, Combs said.

"I was pretty perky," Combs said when asked for her reaction after she first learned of the unexpectedly large boost in revenue.

The outlook that Combs offered Monday was dramatically brighter than her revenue estimate just before the start of the 2011 Legislature, which met in the aftermath of the recession and ultimately cut spending by $15 billion. The current 2012-2013 budget totals about $173 billion from state and federal revenue, an 8 percent decrease from the previous biennium.

Combs attributed the growth in revenue to a surge in the economy over the past two years. Sales taxes, which provide the biggest source of revenue, is expected to generate $54.9 billion, a 9.4 increase from the current biennium.

Combs also reported the state's economic stabilization fund - better known as the rainy day fund - will be $8.1 billion at the end of the current biennium and $11.8 billion at the end of 2014-15, unless lawmakers choose to spend some of it.

The fund will likely be at the center of another tug-of-war between those who want to use the money to offset spending cuts and others calling for restraint in tapping into the fund.

Combs did caution that things could still go wrong with the economy during the 140-day session.

"While the Texas economy is doing well, we must be mindful of factors that cast a shadow over our economy," the comptroller said. "The economic and financial troubles dogging Europe drag on and the powerful Chinese economy has slowed."

Meanwhile, she added, "the federal government remains gridlocked across a number of issues."

Dave Montgomery is the Star-Telegram's Austin bureau chief, 512-739-4471.

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