Treasury Surplus Larger Than Previously Projected
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar confirmed on Tuesday that when he releases his updated biennial revenue estimate next week, the treasury surplus will exceed the $27 billion projected last summer.
“The upcoming revenue estimate is my most challenging yet,” Hegar tweeted. “On one hand, our growth in the coming years will be hampered by a slowing economy, so caution is needed. On the other hand, people will be shocked when I announce that the cash carryover balance in the treasury is greater than the $27 billion originally forecasted.”
This opens the door for many different legislative priorities, such as property tax cuts and infrastructure spending, provided the Legislature can find a way around the $12.5 billion spending cap set by the Texas Constitution. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has floated the idea of passing expenditures exceeding the cap as individual amendments to the constitution.
“Texas is blessed with a remarkable, truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for lawmakers to make the choice to invest in infrastructure and services that will fuel growth for Texas and provide meaningful tax relief for Texans struggling with rising prices,” Hegar said in an op-ed for the Austin-American Statesman.
“We will never have a surplus of discretionary funds like this again.”
Legislator Inquires About Missing Study on Pornography
The Broadband Development Council was supposed to conclude a study of “the detrimental impact of pornographic or other obscene materials on residents of this state and the feasibility of limiting access to those materials” by November 1, 2022, but to date it has not been released.
The requirement was passed as part of House Bill 5, the broadband expansion bill, during the 2021 regular session. On December 26, state Rep. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford) sent an inquiry to the governor’s Broadband Development Council about the study, saying he has not yet received a response.
“The Texas Legislature passed this legislation in the 87th Legislative Session with the commitment to conduct an official state study on the negative effects of pornography,” he wrote. “If Texas is to spend tax dollars expanding broadband to millions more Texans, it has the responsibility to understand this epidemic and how it might limit its effects as it expands rural broadband.”
The governor’s office did not return a status request for the study.
Business Lobby Group Supporting Chapter 313 Revival ‘Stands Down’
A coalition of industry associations formed to push for revival of Chapter 313 has decided to let its foot off the gas pedal days before legislators reconvene in Austin.
Jobs for Texas — formed by the Texas Association of Manufacturers (TAM), the Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA), the Texas Association of Business, the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association (TTARA), and the Texas Chemical Council — decided to hit pause on its plan to advocate renewal of the now-expired tax abatement program.
“In looking at the lay of the land and the challenges, we’ve done as much as we can and now the ball is in the Legislature’s court,” TTARA President Dale Craymer told The Texan. He said that the group conducted polling of the issue during its concerted effort.
“As distasteful as Chapter 313 agreements may be, they can be effective in attracting business to Texas,” Craymer added.
Former Speaker Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton) was involved in the group, providing legislative strategy and consulting services to the coalition, according to Craymer. Quorum Report reported Bonnen was paid up to $600,000 for the contract.
In a statement to The Texan, TXOGA President Todd Staples said, “The Jobs for Texas Coalition was created to gauge support for a new economic development bill for Texas.”
“The group accomplished its mission of meeting with Texans on the issue of economic development and gathered feedback including tremendously positive data and strong messages about what is important to Texans.”
TAM President and CEO Tony Bennett added, in his own statement, “The work of the coalition is complete at this time, and we look forward to working with the legislature as they begin the essential work of developing a new transparent and modern program.”
“It remains imperative for Texas to develop an economic development program to attract large-scale manufacturing projects here to strength our national and supply chain security and to protect our leadership in emerging technologies and advanced manufacturing.”
Property tax relief, including for businesses, will be a hot topic during the coming session.
Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.
Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.