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2013-01-17

My View - Comptroller reports state has revenue to undo education cuts

Contributed

Austin - Following the release last week of the state Comptroller's Biennial Revenue Estimate (BRE) for the next two years, Representative Mike Villarreal, who represents part of Bexar County, said the BRE showed the historic 2011 cuts to education were unnecessary and called on the legislature to use the state's newly reported revenue to start reversing those cuts in the next budget.
"The report is further proof the legislature didn't have to cut education, push schools to crowd more kids into full classrooms, and make college more expensive," said Rep. Villarreal, who voted against the cuts in 2011. "We now know we have the resources to start undoing the cuts and give our children the education they deserve. The only question is if Republican legislators will continue to stand in the way."
The BRE predicts the state will collect $96.2 billion in General Revenue-related taxes and fees during the 2014-2015 biennium. It also shows the state will have a balance of $8.8 billion at the end of the current budget cycle, which ends August, 31, 2012. After accounting for the required transfer of $3.6 billion to the Economic Stabilization Fund (ESF), legislators will have $101.4 billion available for general-purpose spending as they write the state budget during the coming months.
The $101.4 billion available for the 2014-2015 budget greatly exceeds general revenue spending in the current 2012-2013 budget, putting the legislature in a strong position to cover the normal increase in state expenditures associated with public school enrollment growth and other structural factors. The 2012-2013 budget contains $81 billion in general revenue spending, a figure that will reach approximately $86 billion when the legislature passes a supplemental spending bill this spring to cover a planned shortfall in Medicaid.
During the 2011 legislative session, the legislature cut $5.4 billion from public education. The $8.8 billion balance this biennium shows that the legislature could have avoided those cuts and still had money left over.
The Comptroller's report today also reveals the state will have $11.8 billion in the ESF, also known as the Rainy Day Fund, at the end of the next biennium if no appropriations are made from the Fund. The Fund will have $8.1 billion at the end of the current biennium, absent any appropriations. The legislature is expected to use approximately $5 billion to pay for the planned shortfall in the current budget for Medicaid services to pregnant women, children, the disabled and seniors.
The new BRE also shows that the Comptroller's January 2011 estimate for the current budget cycle was off by $14.9 billion, providing further evidence that the deep cuts in 2011 to education and others services were unnecessary. Two years ago the Comptroller's BRE predicted the state would collect $77.3 billion in General Revenue-related revenue in 2012-2013. The new BRE estimates the GR-related revenue for 2013-2013 will reach $92.2 billion when the biennium ends in August.