Cautious About Spending State Dollars

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs says the state can expect to have over 77-billion dollars available for general purpose spending during the next biennium. Given the turmoil in the national economy, Combs calls the state forecast cautious. Pat Hernandez has the story.

Combs’ Biennial Revenue Estimate includes a 2.1-billion dollar ending balance carried over from the previous biennium, plus an estimated 77- billion in general purpose revenue from taxes and other sources.

“Your revenue sources are generally, taxes and fees and sales taxes are about 65-percent of all taxes. The automobile, the motor vehicle, sales tax is about 3-billion dollars, generally. Well, car sales are down about 22-percent. And so you have stress on some of the revenue streams, but you still have a growing population, you still have needs. And as I say, we are remarkably lucky that we have a good surplus. We’re starting with 2-billion in surplus.”

The comptroller stopped by the KUHF studios to deliver the forecast. She says efforts are underway to try and help UTMB in Galveston. The island’s biggest employer was severely impacted by Hurricane Ike.

“We’re talking with them about how our office can help them secure some financing for some reconstruction, etc. Certainly the legislature is mindful of the importance of UTMB. It’s a real Texas treasure, and so I would expect that there would be a lot of support for it. What form it will take I don’t know, but I do think that people understand that UTMB is a real asset to the state.”

Texas has avoided the worst economic impacts affecting other states, but Combs says not anymore.

“There’s not a deficit pending, I want to be very clear on that. But if you look strictly at revenue and strictly at expenditures, you’re going to have to probably either sharply curtail expenditures, which they’re looking at — kind of like they did in 2003 — or you have to take some effort to go look at the rainy day fund.”

She says that fund gives Texas some wiggle room.

“But you’ve got to take a look at where you’re going long term, and how do you get the state on a really good, even keel financially. Again, we are on a good keel financially, but you’ve still got to look out two years.”

Whatever your revenue rate of growth is, if your rate of expenditure matches that…Combs says that’s NOT a good thing.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.