AUSTIN (KXAN) — With less than two months before the start of the legislative session, Texas lawmakers are getting good news about the state’s budget. State Comptroller Glenn Hegar told an audience at an event hosted by the Austin Chamber he expected Texas would have even more money available than the amount he originally forecasted.
That’s a big deal since Hegar had already estimated the state would have a record $27 billion surplus. At the event, he hinted it could be much larger. He did not give a specific number, saying his official revenue estimate will come in January, right before the start of the legislative session.
“It’s going to be a pretty remarkable opportunity for the legislature to do something that we will never have an opportunity again in Texas history,” Hegar told the audience.
“We will never again have an annual tax total collection compared to the prior year of 25%. We will not still have some federal money that can be utilized instead of state money for general revenue,” Hegar continued.
The comptroller said the funding will give lawmakers more options to address long-standing concerns in the state. He advocated for investing in infrastructure like roads, the power grid and high-speed internet, saying that could set the state up for long-term growth.
Gov. Greg Abbott, along with other state leaders, previously called for using much of the surplus to go toward property tax cuts. Those decisions will come from lawmakers next session.
“Now they have to prioritize what are those things that we can do in Texas to hopefully make life a little bit better, that we have not been tending to, and that that mix is going to be a lot of things in the bucket,” Hegar said.
Despite the good news, Hegar had a few words of caution.
Hegar warned while the numbers look good now, a major, unexpected event could change things before he releases his official estimate in January. He told the audience a story about talking to his three teenage children about epic events like Hurricane Harvey, the COVID pandemic and the 2020 collapse in oil prices. After each event, Hegar said he told his children: “it’s a once in a lifetime event.”
Hegar said he used the phrase again in February 2021 to describe the devastating winter storm to his 13-year-old son.
“My son looked at me and he said, ‘Dad, how many once-in-a-lifetime events do I have to live through?'”
Hegar said the question hit home, illustrating how quickly things can change. He pointed to the ongoing war in Ukraine and signs of economic problems around the world as causes for concern.
“We are not immune to the clouds on the horizon to the national the global economy,” Hegar warned. “I’m saying the economy is slowing down,” he added, echoing his earlier statement the expected surplus is a one-time opportunity for Texas.