The state comptroller estimates that Texas will generate $96.2 billion in general revenue in 2014-2015, a major jump in tax collection from the last two-year budget cycle.
Republican Comptroller Susan Combs on Monday was releasing her biennial revenue estimate. The crucial number sets the limit on what lawmakers can spend for 2014 and 2015, when Democrats and teachers hope to reverse, or at least bandage, deep cuts in the current budget that included $5.4 billion slashed from public education.
Combs reported Monday that the state collected $8.8 billion more revenue during the current 2012-2013 revenue cycle than she initially forecast, giving lawmakers breathing room in settling a $5.2 billion deficit in the current budget.
"Texas experienced a very strong rebound from a severe recession," Combs said.
Over the next two years, Combs expects more than $3.6 billion will automatically go into the Rainy Day Fund, which is available to lawmakers when needed. That will leave $92.6 billion for lawmakers to divvy out.
"Today’s revenue estimate is more evidence that we made the right decisions two years ago by budgeting carefully to meet the challenges of the national recession. The Texas formula of low taxes, reasonable regulations, fair courts and a quality workforce is the best way to continue creating jobs and growing our economy," said Gov. Rick Perry in a news release Monday. "Even as we head into the 83rd Legislative Session with higher revenues, we still need to focus on separating our wants from our needs, and continue to follow the conservative fiscal principles that have led to Texas’ ongoing success and will keep Texas strong."
Just because there is more money than expected doesn't mean it will get spent. Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have promised to limit any increase in state spending to a sum of population growth plus inflation, or 9.85 percent.
Under current conditions, their plan would create a general revenue budget of $89.29 billion. Combs' estimate in January 2011 was $72.2 billion in general-purpose spending available.
Texas' economy is humming again after lawmakers in 2011 wrote a cut-to-the-bone budget as the nation lurched out of the Great Recession.
At the time, unemployment in the state was the highest in a decade and the Legislature faced a $27 billion shortfall. But unemployment now is at a four-year low of 6.2 percent, sales tax receipts are skyrocketing and money is pouring into state coffers behind a new energy boom.