With two days left in special session, comptroller finds extra $196 million

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

State Comptroller Glenn Hegar presents the Biennial Revenue Estimate to waiting legislators, state officials and the press on January 9, 2017.  Hegar predicts a tight budget with falling revenue from Texas oil and gas production and sales taxes.

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.

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.

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