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.