EPeak Daily

Texas’ wet day fund would possibly go to high school safety, Harvey restoration

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A gaggle of state leaders with big affect over what public companies obtain funding mentioned Friday they had been ready to make a big withdrawal from the state’s financial savings account.

At a public listening to, Home and Senate leaders listed myriad wants they might pay for out of the financial savings account, together with leftover prices from Hurricane Harvey, a invoice coming due for retired lecturers’ pensions and unspecified public college security enhancements. That financial savings account, identified formally because the Financial Stabilization Fund and colloquially because the wet day fund, is projected to achieve an unprecedented $15 billion within the coming price range cycle if left untouched.

“I feel all of us are life like that we might must faucet into the wet day fund for one-time expenditures, greater than we’ve got prior to now,” mentioned Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on the finish of a roughly 10-minute assembly of the state’s Legislative Price range Board.

That would come with cash for Hurricane Harvey restoration — one thing the state will “for positive” pay for out of the wet day fund, mentioned state Sen. Jane Nelson, the higher chamber’s lead price range author.

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“And we’ve got college safety points,” Patrick mentioned.

“Retired lecturers,” added Home Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

“There are a selection of points,” Patrick mentioned. “So we’ll must be very cautious how we spend our constituents’ {dollars}, however we’ve got loads to do that session.”

After the listening to, Nelson mentioned she hoped public college safety funding would come with funding in each “college hardening and psychological well being.”

As well as, the board on Friday unanimously authorized a cap that will restrict how a lot cash the state can spend within the subsequent two years, which was simply wanting 10 % above the present spending quantity.

The cap is a requirement of the Texas Structure, which mandates that authorities spending can not develop quicker than the state’s financial system. The Legislative Price range Board fielded projections from economists about how a lot Texans’ private earnings would develop over the subsequent two years and settled on a cautiously optimistic development fee of 9.89 %.

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The excellent news for lawmakers is that they are going to seemingly have sufficient tax income out there to them to achieve the spending cap, ought to they wish to. Comptroller Glenn Hegar predicted this week that the state could have about 8.1 % extra income out there on this two-year price range cycle in contrast with final cycle, not counting the wet day fund’s record-breaking stability.

Usually, the Legislative Price range Board units a spending cap late in November earlier than an upcoming legislative session. However with then-Home Speaker Joe Straus’ retirement imminent, the board final 12 months opted to punt the choice till January. Straus on the time mentioned there was no cause to hurry into a choice that lawmakers would possibly come to remorse.

Within the subsequent months, economists revised their projections of Texas’ earnings development barely upward, giving lawmakers barely extra wiggle room to spice up funding for public colleges or sluggish the expansion of Texans’ property taxes — two priorities the Home and Senate have agreed on thus far.

The spending cap solely covers nondedicated income, these elements of the price range which might be funded by taxes however are usually not required by regulation to go to particular packages. Whereas the Legislature can vote to interrupt the cap, it is a politically dicey transfer that lawmakers have prevented in current classes.


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