The Brief: Lawmakers brace for tight-fisted legislative session
During a Legislative Budget Board meeting Thursday, lawmakers set the state’s growth rate at 8 percent — nearly 4 percent lower than the threshold set two years ago.
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The Big Story
During a Legislative Budget Board meeting Thursday chaired by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Joe Straus, lawmakers set the state’s growth rate at 8 percent. That rate sets a cap on how much lawmakers can spend in the 2017 legislative session — or it would, if the state had enough money to grow its budget by that much. Here’s what it means for the Legislature:
• The growth rate limits how much next year's Legislature can spend compared to the previous one, effectively capping spending on roughly half of a budget that last session totaled $209.4 billion.
• This year's rate, approved unanimously, is nearly 4 percent lower than the 11.68 percent rate approved ahead of the 2015 session. State Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, told The Texas Tribune that the state won’t have enough money to grow its budget by that much, calling the budget situation the tightest since 2011.
• Lawmakers will instead focus on the state’s “pay-as-you-go” cap, the constitutional requirement to pass a balanced state budget. A more consequential threshold will be known once Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar unveils his certified revenue estimate in December.
• Thursday’s vote reflects economic growth slowed by low oil prices over the past two years. Tom Currah, Hegar’s chief revenue estimator, noted that Texas has weathered oil’s price plunge better than other big energy-producing states. In addition, a modest increase in oil rig counts in recent months and an agreement from OPEC nations this week to cut oil production are a few reasons for mild optimism, Currah said.
What We're Reading
(Links below lead to outside websites; content might be behind paywall)
Transgender Texans fight for rights, seek strength to overcome post-election 'tailspin', The Dallas Morning News
Texas Rep. Joe Barton falls short in bid to lead powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Governing Texas in the Donald Trump era, Houston Chronicle
Hensarling gives measured support to Treasury pick, won't say if he turned down Trump for budget post, The Dallas Morning News
Today in TribTalk
"As World AIDS Day is commemorated Dec. 1, health care providers, the public and policymakers in Texas must realize the virus is still invading neighborhoods at astonishing rates."
— Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston and Katy Caldwell, CEO, Legacy Community Health
Trib Events for the Calendar
• San Antonio & the Legislature: A Preview of the 85th on Dec. 2 at University of Texas at San Antonio – Downtown Campus
• A Conversation with Sen.-elect Dawn Buckingham & Rep.-elect Hugh Shine on Dec. 8 at Temple College – Arnold Student Union
• Health Care and the 85th Legislature on Dec. 15 at UT Health Science Center San Antonio - Pestana Lecture Hall
• Trivia Night on Jan. 8 at The Highball
• A Conversation with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on Jan. 11 at The Austin Club
• A Conversation with Reps. Dustin Burrows & Drew Darby on Jan. 19 at Howard College – West Texas Training Center
• A Conversation with Sen. Kel Seliger & Rep. Brooks Landgraf on Feb. 17 at Odessa College – Saulsbury Campus Center
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