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The Brief: Jan. 12, 2015

Glenn Hegar, the state's new comptroller, today releases his revenue estimate for the next two years, which will go a long way to setting the early tone for the 84th Legislature.

Glenn Hegar (far right) stands with chief revenue estimators past and future. From left: Dale Craymer, Billy Hamilton and ...

The Big Conversation

Texas' new comptroller, Glenn Hegar, takes the spotlight at 10 a.m. when he gives the biennial revenue estimate. The importance of this document is twofold.

First of all, it sets the limit on the amount of dollars available to lawmakers when writing the budget for the upcoming two-year cycle. Secondly, it allows Hegar to give his best take on the overall health of the Texas economy, a key question these days with plummeting oil prices injecting unexpected uncertainty into efforts by state planners.

One figure to watch will be Hegar's expectation for the price of oil. According to Peggy Fikac of the San Antonio Express-News, Hegar will also announce there are $5 billion to $6 billion in unspent revenue for the current budget cycle, which runs through the end of August.

Fikac reports too that Hegar, who is moving into the comptroller's office from a seat in the state Senate, began the transition process uniquely — he reached out for help from previous revenue estimators.

After winning the comptroller’s office, Hegar invited “all of the revenue estimators of old” to sit down with him to talk about how to approach an estimate under current conditions, said budget expert Dale Craymer, president of the business-based Texas Taxpayers and Research Association.

Craymer said that’s “something that no other incoming comptroller to my knowledge has ever done.”

Hegar’s outreach to experienced people shows “that he is taking a very informed approach. He is going to rely on whatever expertise he can, and he is listening,” said Craymer, whose jobs have included being chief revenue estimator under the late former Comptroller Bob Bullock.

The Center for Public Policy Priorities, a think tank that advocates for low-income Texans, said in an analysis released late last week that the state would need $6 billion in additional general revenue to continue to deliver the same level of services in the next budget. The biggest increases come in health and human services as well as the state's retirement systems for teachers and state employees.

The Day Ahead

•    Join us for a pre-session breakfast conversation with the two Senate caucus chairs — Democratic leader Kirk Watson and Republican leader Joan Huffman — at the Austin Club. We will livestream the discussion beginning at 8 a.m. for those unable to attend in person.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: Session a Mix of New Faces and Uncertainty, by Ross Ramsey

Rule on Natural Gas Rate Hikes is Fuel for Debate, by Jim Malewitz

Dan Patrick and the Two-Thirds Rule: A Primer, by Morgan Smith

Elsewhere

Missed signs could prevent child abuse deaths, Austin American-Statesman

Oil’s slip could send Texas economy sliding, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Oil price plunge expected to send shudder through Eagle Ford, shiver through San Antonio, San Antonio Express-News

What’s at fault? Scientists seek cause of Irving earthquakes, The Dallas Morning News

Texas-size battery proposal adds to debate about electricity grid, Austin American-Statesman

Payday lending focus of new bills in Legislature, El Paso Times

G.O.P. Governors Face Test in Shift on Ideological Agendas, The New York Times

How campaigns are courting 16-year-olds, Politico

Experts work to make Kyle Field bat-free after renovation, Bryan-College Station Eagle

Quote to Note

“Never. It never was directed towards him. It was directed toward just basic reform that we should institute."

— State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, on the negative reaction by Gov. Rick Perry to his legislation last session that would institute term limits for statewide officials, among other things. Perry, as readers might recall, is about to draw the curtain on the longest tenure as governor of anyone in Texas history.

Today in TribTalk

2015: An agenda for health care, by Tom Banning

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Meet the New Guys in the House: Reps. Celia Israel, Linda Koop and César Blanco on Jan. 14 at The Austin Club

•    Future Forum: The Future of Texas on Jan. 21 at the LBJ Library in Austin

•    A Conversation With House Public Education Chair Jimmie Don Aycock on Jan. 22 at The Austin Club

•    Higher Ed: The Next Five Years on Jan. 26 at the Texas Tech University Alumni Center in Lubbock

•    A Conversation With Lt. Gov.-elect Dan Patrick on Jan. 27 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With Adm. William McRaven, UT System Chancellor on Feb. 5 at The Austin Club

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Joaquín Castro on Feb. 19 at The Austin Club

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