Editorial

16 January 2023

Capitol Update: First Business of the 88th Legislative Session

With the start of the 88th Legislative Session, State Representatives and Senators convened in Austin on Tuesday, January 10 to take the constitutional oath of office. It was such a blessing to be surrounded by my family and friends from back home as I swore to faithfully execute the duties of the office as the State Representative for House District 9. It is the honor of a lifetime to serve as a voice for those living in the six counties I’m blessed to represent, and you have my commitment that I will strive every day to promote and protect the interests of our East Texas region and the values we hold dear.

With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol…

Capitol Update

A day before the swearing-in ceremony, the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts released the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), which outlines the state’s financial condition and provides an estimate of the revenue the Legislature can expect to receive during the next two-year budget cycle. The Comptroller projected that the state will have a record-breaking $188.2 billion in revenue available for general-purpose spending, which is a 26.3% increase from the previous budget cycle. Comptroller Hegar also announced a $32.7 billion budget surplus, a 21% increase from the $27 billion expected in the July forecast. The record-breaking estimate is a direct result of strong economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the highest inflation rate in over 40 years.

Additionally, of the $32.7 billion, $10.2 billion must be transferred to the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), also known as the “Rainy Day Fund.” The Texas Constitution requires a portion of oil and gas production taxes to go into the ESF. As its name suggests, the Rainy Day Fund serves as a financial cushion to help cover the state’s obligations when tax receipts fall short, as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic. Importantly, the Texas Constitution also caps the balance of the ESF. When the balance of the ESF exceeds the constitutional limit, excess revenue flows back into general revenue, which the Comptroller projects to occur in the very near future.

While any budget surplus is welcome news, I believe we should be mindful of the financial challenges many Texans are facing and craft fiscal policies that prioritize the taxpayer. Perhaps the best place to start is by using our budget surplus to provide meaningful property tax relief with strategic investments and appraisal reform. I also believe that the state must plan for the future by investing in our broadband and transportation infrastructure, enhancing public safety by bolstering border security and law enforcement efforts, expanding access to healthcare, mental health, and emergency services in rural areas, and support our dedicated educators through pay raises and a well-deserved cost of living adjustment for our retired teachers. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that we responsibly capitalize on this opportunity to prioritize taxpayers while also protecting and promoting future prosperity.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if we can help you in any way. My district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762. Additionally, I welcome you to follow along on my Official Facebook Page, where I will post regular updates on what’s happening in your State Capitol and share information that could be useful to you and your family: https://www.facebook.com/RepTrentAshby/.

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