Surging Texas Tax Collections Brighten State’s Gloomy Fiscal Outlook

AUSTIN — Surprising recent strength in the Texas economy has eased if not eliminated concern that next year's budget-writing task for state lawmakers will be awful.With one-sixth of the new two-year cycle behind them, officials are seeing big gains in collections of the state's revenue workhorse, the 6 1/4-cent sales tax.A combination of higher oil prices, strong retail sales before Christmas and a spurt of construction activity along the hurricane-damaged Texas Gulf Coast has raised the enticing possibility that sales tax revenue could grow this year nearly twice as much as expected.That would help lessen a bind state GOP leaders find themselves in: They've bowed to voters' anger about clogged highways in Texas' biggest cities by shifting existing tax money over to roads. But they've also saluted Republican activists who insist that taxes shouldn't be raised, nor should state savings be more than lightly used.In the past four months, the state collected more than $10.3 billion in sales tax, figures released this week show. That's an increase of more than 10.2 percent over the same four months of 2016.Comptroller Glenn Hegar acknowledged Thursday it's a good start to the cycle and his official estimate that sales tax receipts would grow by 5.5 percent this fiscal year may turn out to be too low.  Continue reading...

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