Comptroller Combs Estimates State Revenue Is Up

The Comptroller's official 2 year revenue estimate contains collections driven by a rebounding Texas economy, which means a healthy budget surplus.

"When you add the numbers, the general revenue available for certification in 2014-15 is $101.4 billion."

When you factor federal funds and other revenue sources, Combs says the total funds available for the next budget come in at over $200 billion dollars.

"The outlook that I'm releasing for both state revenue and the economic picture is for continuing expansion, as the fast growth period of an economic recovery gives way for a moderate sustained growth."

Of the new revenue, $3.6 billion dollars will be transferred to the state's Rainy Day Fund, which Combs predicted will grow to $11.8 billion.

Dick Lavine is with Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities.

"The first thing they have to do is pay the Medicaid bill for the rest of current budget, and the Rainy Day Fund is exactly for that purpose. It's to maintain services when you have economic troubles, and two years ago when they were writing the budget, they short-changed Medicaid because of the troubles. Even the Senate Finance committee voted to use the Rainy Day Fund. They should carry through that commitment and .do that right away."

That bill is due by March. Lavine says luckily there will be a lot of money in the Rainy Day Fund.

"If the Legislature's willing to use that for its stated purpose, which is to keep services going even though we're having some economic difficulties, we might be able to start getting back some of the money for instance, that was taken away from public education, that led to overcrowded classrooms and teachers and other staff being laid off."

Chuck Robinson is with the Congress for Houston Teachers. He says they're optimistic that lawmakers will restore money cut from public education.

"We lost $5.4 billion in the last biennium budget, and the state also for the first time since the whole inception of the school funding in the 1940's, did not include any kind of revenue for increased enrollment throughout the state. So, schools have really taken a hit over this in the last two years, and we're certainly hoping that they're gonna rectify that deficiency."

The announcement comes as good news for lawmakers beginning the legislative session. They're expected to commit several billion dollars to pay off bills left unpaid from the last session, including that $5 billion Medicaid bill.

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