On Monday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar released his long-awaited Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) ahead of the 88th Legislative Session, which begins today. The BRE is an estimate of the revenue that the State of Texas expects to receive through the next two-year budget period and forms the basis of the Texas budget that lawmakers will deliberate by setting out the limit on revenue available for general-purpose spending.
One of the key takeaways from Hegar’s announcement, outside of the estimate that lawmakers can spend, was that the historic budget surplus facing lawmakers had grown to a record $32.6 billion, surpassing the previous estimate of nearly $27 billion.
In the past few weeks, both Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick and Comptroller Glenn Hegar have described the historically significant budget surplus as “a historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” Unfortunately, what they both seem to have meant, based on additional statements, is that it is a historic opportunity for lawmakers to grow the government.
Previously, Patrick indicated that he only believes that an increase to the homestead exemption and $5 billion to $6 billion in property tax compression is good enough. This begs the question … What about the other $26 billion?
Well, it looks like that is going to be appropriated for other things that do not include actual property tax relief for Texans.
Even Hegar admitted he does not anticipate that the Legislature will be willing to break the spending cap of 12.3% in order to give Texas taxpayers much-needed relief on their property taxes. What both of these elected officials seem to miss is that though this absolutely is a “historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” it is not and should not be an opportunity to grow government.
Rather, this is a historic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not only give the biggest property tax cut in Texas history but also to maintain that property tax cut in perpetuity. Never before has Texas had such a monumental opportunity to give taxpayers back the money that was taken from them by the government in over-collection.
Many of the statewide elected officials have conceded that this is in fact taxpayers’ money but not one of them has suggested that we give it all back in the form of tax relief, but rather if we are lucky enough, we might get half back.
As the 88th Legislative Session begins today, lawmakers have a decision to make.
Will they continue to spend and maintain a bloated and overgrown government budget, or will they cut it and give taxpayers back the money it stole from them in the first place while also maintaining property tax cuts? Whatever decision they make, rest assured that Texans for Fiscal Responsibility (TFR) and the voters of Texas will be watching and holding them accountable for what they decide to do with OUR tax surplus.