We’re in the money, as it were.
Comptroller Susan Combs on Wednesday released updated details of how much money Texas is expected to collect in taxes and fees in fiscal year 2013, which begins on Sept. 1.
The report, prepared as Texas seeks $9.8 billion in short-term loans, indicated that the state will bring in about $2 billion more than Combs had previously estimated for 2013.
In addition, sales tax collections for the current fiscal year are running about $1.5 billion ahead of projections, while the business franchise tax has exceeded estimates by at least $300 million.
Combs previously reported that the state was sitting on a $1.6 billion cash balance from the previous budget, which brings the ever-changing total well above $5 billion.
An additional $5 billion would help lawmakers cover a tab for Medicaid costs that they must pay next year. That obligation has fallen from $4.8 billion to an estimated $3.9 billion as fewer people have enrolled in the health care program and changes aimed at controlling costs take effect.
The rainy day fund might be near capacity.
Combs expects the account to reach $8.2 billion by the end of 2013, almost $1 billion more than she projected in December. That amount would appear to approach the limit set on the fund by the state constitution.
Production taxes from the oil and gas boom are filling up the reserve fund, said R.J. DeSilva, a spokesman for Combs.
So the Rainy Day Fund is full, and the revenue projection may well be undershooting the mark. If we’re not restoring the funds that were cut from public education and a host of things besides, what are we going to do? This is why I say that the 2013 legislative session will be a major factor in the 2014 elections, because there’s a fundamental question about budgets and government services that needs to be answered. Do people have the expectation that the cuts made in 2011 were simply in response to the finances of the day, with the equivalent expectation that better times means putting things back as they had been, or do people believe this is the new normal? It’s not too early to start planning how to get voters to arrive at the answer you want them to.