Combs Finds Another $1.2 Billion for Budget

Comptroller Susan Combs giving a biennial revenue estimate in Austin on Jan. 10, 2011.
Comptroller Susan Combs giving a biennial revenue estimate in Austin on Jan. 10, 2011.

Comptroller Susan Combs added $1.2 billion to her estimate of state revenues, making that much more money available to budget writers who are scrambling for cash. She said the state's income from sales taxes, motor vehicle sales taxes and oil production are all up, and that those numbers justified the increase in the amount available to spend during the 2012-13 budget.

That's not enough money to settle the differences between the House and Senate — their budgets differed by $4 billion in education alone — but it'll help. The House is scheduled to consider a package of finance bills on Wednesday; the outcome of that debate will determine whether the legislators writing the budget can finish their job this week, or whether the budget will have to be written in a special session this summer.

Gov. Rick Perry said in a press release that he's glad to have the money, but he also cautioned lawmakers against more spending. He renewed his objection to spending from the Rainy Day Fund.

“Because of our nation’s economic uncertainty, looming federal mandates and possible natural disasters, we must protect the remaining balance of the state’s Rainy Day Fund. A budget that drains the Rainy Day Fund, depends on accounting gimmicks or spends more than available revenues is harmful and unsustainable for taxpayers, employers and state lawmakers alike," Perry said.

He also doused talk of passing a budget that includes everything but education. Senate Finance Chairman Steve Odgen, R-Bryan, floated that idea as it became apparent that education funding in the budget was the biggest disagreement between the Senate and the House. “I will not sign a partial state budget or allow it to become law," Perry said. "However, I remain confident we can pass a fiscally-conservative balanced budget in regular session, and will continue to work with the Senate and House to responsibly live within available state revenues.”

Here's Combs' statement:

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs increased her state revenue estimate today based on a strengthening economy.  

“I am raising the general revenue estimate for the next biennium by $1.2 billion,” Combs said. “Maintaining a cautious outlook for the next biennium, my office estimates sales tax, oil production tax and motor vehicle sales tax will bring in more revenue than previously estimated in the next biennium.   We are updating the revenue estimate after reviewing numerous economic indicators and yesterday’s franchise tax filing deadline.”

Today, the Comptroller is increasing the sales tax revenue estimate for the fiscal 2012-13 biennium by an additional $1 billion.

The state’s motor vehicle sales tax revenue projection for the fiscal 2012-13 biennium is increased by an extra $100 million.

Oil production revenue is projected to increase by an additional $400 million for the 2012-13 biennium. Three-quarters of this extra oil production revenue, $300 million, is constitutionally reserved for future deposit into the Rainy Day Fund and the remaining $100 million will be available for general revenue spending.   

“I will keep working with lawmakers as they go through the process of finalizing a budget for the 2012-13 biennium,” Combs said.  “While Texas continues to add jobs as our state recovers from the recent recession, the state’s housing market is sluggish, with new home construction levels similar to those seen in the mid-1990s. We will also monitor different aspects of the economy, including any potential burden on consumers and businesses if oil prices move higher.” 

And here is her letter to other state leaders:

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.