The current national economic situation is so volatile that Texas Comptroller Susan Combs said she is unwilling to predict now how much money lawmakers will have to allocate when the Legislature convenes in January.
“Our state will not go untouched” by the national recession, she said. “I don’t think it’s a mystery that sales tax revenue is down from a robust growth.”
Texas expects to have a surplus of $11.7 billion, Combs said, but $3 billion of that is committed to local school districts to mitigate school property tax cuts approved by the Legislature last year,
Combs said the state should end fiscal 2009 in August with $2 billion in general revenue, $3 billion dedicated to local property tax reductions, and $6.7 billion in the budget stabilization fund. She said $3.2 billion may be required to make up for shortfalls in Medicaid and other social programs, and the state’s share of cleanup from Hurricane Ike may top $2 billion.
“There are a lot of very significant needs that are unavoidable,” Combs said. “So I would not assume there’s going to be a very large pot of money at the end.”
The comptroller said state sales tax revenue continues to grow, but is down from a 12% annual increase two years ago to only 5% currently.
The severance tax on oil generated $363 million in the quarter that ended Nov. 30, up 36% from the same quarter last year. The natural gas severance tax brought in $777 million for the quarter, up 55% from the previous year.