Texas legislators might not know how to act when they convene the next legislative session in January 2015.
The State Comptroller’s Office reports that Texas’s budget surplus is actually greater than anyone expected. The news might be hard for some veteran lawmakers to swallow, given all the cutting, slashing and trimming they’ve had to do over the past three legislative budget cycles.
Comptroller Susan Combs — who isn’t running for re-election next year — reports that the state ended the 2012-13 budget year with a $2.6 billion surplus, more than double the $964 million she had projected during the summer.
Aren’t we in a recession? Apparently not.
The news comes at a fortuitous time for Texas. Voters this past month approved a constitutional amendment that allows the state to tap into its Rainy Day Fund to pay for statewide water projects. The news about the surplus means the fund is actually going to be larger than anticipated, giving lawmakers more money to spend on important water infrastructure and other needed projects.
Big driver in all of this revenue appears to be oil and natural gas development, which has boomed in recent years. Hundred-dollar-per-barrel oil does give drillers incentive to look for the “Texas tea.” Make no mistake, the pump jacks have been working furiously all across the High Plains and throughout West Texas.
The Texas Tribune reports a relatively sunny outlook for the immediate future, if not beyond.
While oil and gas activity has had a significant impact on state revenue, the broader state economy is also doing very well, Combs reported.
According to the Tribune: “’Texas has recovered 100 percent of the jobs lost during the recession and added 597,000 beyond the previous peak in August 2008,’ Combs wrote. ‘The economic forecast underlying this revenue estimate projects Texas will continue adding jobs in fiscal years 2014 and 2015, although not at the pace of 2011, 2012 or 2013.’”
We’ve been getting a lot of bad economic news of late. It filters in from other parts of the country and, yes, some of it here has been gloomy. The 2009, 2011 and 2013 sessions of the Texas Legislature have been in cost-cutting modes because of declining revenue.
Now we see that lawmakers have another kind of “headache” with which to cope. I’m sure they’ll find a cure.