Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on Tuesday delivered some welcome news to weary state lawmakers: Their coffers should be richer than he previously anticipated.

Citing an improving economic outlook, Hegar now projects the Legislature left more than $237 million in general revenue unspent during the legislative session — far more than the $41.5 million he projected in July, according to a letter he sent to state leaders. General revenue is the source of state revenue that lawmakers generally have the most control over.

Hegar, a Republican, announced the revised revenue estimate with just two days left in the 30-day special session and as House and Senate leaders are in the middle of negotiations over a final deal on a school finance package that could include hundreds of millions in funding for public schools as well as more than $200 million for a health insurance program for retired teachers.

Bolstered projections in collections of state franchise taxes — a levy on businesses that some Republicans have long sought to eliminate — played a key role in pushing up the revenue estimate, Hegar's letter said.

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In January, ahead of the regular legislative session, Hegar gave lawmakers a dour revenue estimate, telling them they had $104.87 billion in state funds at their disposal in crafting the next two-year budget, a 2.7 percent decrease from his estimate ahead of the legislative session two years ago. Lawmakers ended up passing a budget of more than $200 billion that used the vast majority of those state funds as well as federal funding and tapping the state's savings account for $1 billion and employing an accounting trick for an additional $2.5 billion.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • With just days left in the special session, the Texas House and Senate are moving toward a compromise on school finance. Here's what we know so far. [Full story]

  • Did the Texas Legislature boost funding for border security? What about public education? Did they dip into the Rainy Day Fund? Here’s a wide-angle look at what's in the $217 billion budget the two chambers ultimately settled on. [Full story]

  • Leaders at many of the state's top public universities have ordered across-the-board budget cuts for the next school year, even though they avoided their worst funding fears during the 2017 legislative session. [Full story]

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