In celebration of School Board Appreciation Month, I hope that all parents, teachers, and students will join me in recognition our local School Board Members who have dedicated themselves to the betterment of Texas children. To all the devoted trustees, whose commitment to education is helping build the foundation of our state’s future—a resounding thank you! I sincerely appreciate all of your hard work, and hope you will see my office as a partner in our shared goal to help the students of Texas succeed.
With that, here’s an update from your State Capitol. . .
Tuesday, January 12 marked the beginning of the 87th Legislative Session in Texas. As the first order of business after being sworn in, a vote was held to elect the Speaker of the Texas House. Representative Dade Phelan of Beaumont was selected by the body to serve as our presiding officer, and I was proud to support him as I am confident he will afford all members the right to represent the unique interests of their individual districts.
Keeping with tradition, the day before the Legislature convened, our Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Glenn Hegar, laid out the Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE), which outlines just how much money the Legislature will have available in the upcoming two-year budget cycle. While the BRE’s expectation that legislators will have $112.5 billion in state revenue for general purpose spending is a decrease of about one-half percent from the 2020-21 biennium, it was a better budget forecast than many expected. Before starting to balance the budget for the next two fiscal years, however, the Legislature will need to find nearly $1 billion to shore up budget commitments for the current biennium ending August 31, 2021.
Both the shortfall for the current biennium, and the decrease in available revenue for 2022-23, are a direct result of an economic slowdown due to COVID-19. The impact was especially significant when considering the downward trend of state tax collections during the pandemic. As an example, sales taxes—our state’s chief source of revenue—collected during the last four months of 2020 were down 7% compared to the same time period in 2019.
The good news, however, is that prudent fiscal policy has already been implemented by our state leadership in an effort to minimize the damage COVID-19 will cause to the upcoming state budget. For starters, legislators left nearly $5 billion dollars unspent last session, which has already had an immediate impact on the budget for the current biennium. More recently, state agencies were directed to cut 5% from their budgets in an effort to control state spending. Additionally, due to the release and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine and the rolling back of government interference with small and large businesses alike, the economic forecast for the next biennium looks promising. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate over the next few months to build a balanced state budget that prioritizes the true needs of you—the citizens of Texas.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if we can help you in any way. Our District office may be reached at (936) 634-2762.