State Faces Budget Gap of $15-28 Billion

The state legislature convenes tomorrow in Austin. The biggest problem facing the state is a huge budget gap. Lawmakers and pundits have been debating the size of the shortfall for months. Today, State Comptroller Susan Combs ended the guessing by releasing the official estimate of future state revenues. Carrie Feibel reports.
Combs arrived at the podium armed with charts. On one poster, a jagged line representing jobs plunged steeply.

“The state has not been immune to the economic forces wreaking havoc in other sections of the country…”

Combs says Texas is recovering. The state economy has already clawed back half of the jobs lost in the recession. But it’s not enough. Sales tax revenues are still down.

“Consumers in the mid-2000 decade were spending at a new rate with virtually no savings. That has changed with savings rates at near 5 percent. Earlier they were buying new homes, filling them with new furniture, driving up those tax receipts.”

So where does this leave the legislature?

The current state budget is $87 billion. For the next budget period, Combs predicts the state will probably end up raking in $72 billion.

That’s fifteen billion less.

But wait – that’s the budget gap if lawmakers just maintain current spending levels. But costs have risen, and more people have moved to Texas. Some people say Texas must spend $99 billion just to provide the same services. So that would leave a $28 billion gap.

Combs had nothing to say about how to close the gap.

That’s not her job. She’s just there to tell lawmakers what they’re facing.

“The outlook I am releasing today for both state revenue and the economic picture is for tempered growth and I would urge lawmakers to continue their historical practice of careful budget deliberations.”

Careful or not, those deliberations begin tomorrow.
Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...