State Budget '09 Preview Part One

The national recession is created at least aξcouple of downwardξforcesξon the next state budget. One is property values, whichξinξTexasξhave not increased as expected. That meansξfewer local tax dollars for schools and more state money to make the difference.ξ Dick Lavine follows the state budget for the Center for Public Policy Priorities a progressiveξstate policy think tank.

"In my estimate is in the change in the controller's estimate of property value growth means that the stateξis going toξhave to put in 300 million dollars more in the current fiscal year than was originally expected."

Another budget concern, the sagging oil market has chipped away at the state's permanent school fund.ξ That could meanξmore than a billion dollars the state was counting on to pay forξschool textbooks will have to come from general revenue. Although State Senator Steve Ogden says theξTexas is still not in bad shape.

"The glass is half full here. We are not broke. We are not facing draconian cuts.ξ The only question is whether we're going to substantially increase funding in various areas of state governmentξ or not.ξ But we'll be able to maintain — under every scenario I've seen—ξat least what we are doing now."

The cautionary, but not panicky demeanor at the Capitol comes in large part from sales tax revenue continue to grow.ξ And sales tax receipts pay for more than half of the state budget.ξ

RJ DeSilvaξis a spokesmanξfor Texas Comptroller Susan Combs.

ξ"So far, in this current fiscal year, there has been growth. Maybe not as much growth as we've seen in the past few years. But there has been about four percent in the sales taxξrevenue."

And as long as that revenueξcontinues to grow, so could the budget.ξ Current house appropriations chair, Republican Warren Chisum says he believes the state will have a budget five percent larger than the current biennium. Senator Odgen hopes Representative Chisum is right.

"I'm operating under the assumption, right now, that I have to produce a budget with zero growth, so if it's five we areξhome free."

Sales tax and revenue projections get much clearer Monday. That's whenξComptroller Combs releasesξherξbudget revenue estimate.ξ The projectionξwill tell lawmakers how muchξmoney theyξhave to spend in the 2010-2011 budget.

Tags: News, Economy


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