2019 Texas legislative session begins with more money for the state than expected
AUSTIN, Texas —
The 2019 legislative session begins Tuesday and lawmakers have more money to play with.
The Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced strong predictions for the state's economic outlook, 8 percent more money than in the biennium.
The state is projected to have $119.1 billion to spend. The Economic Stabilization Fund also bloomed to more than $15 billion.
Still, Hegar warns he cautiously optimistic, due to drops in oil prices and rising interest rates.
Senator Kirk Watson said he's hopeful 2019 will be productive. With less of a focus on what he calls 'wedge' issues, he believes lawmakers can turn their focus to more important issues like school finance and property tax reform.
"Texas tends to not focus on our needs, but instead focuses on how little we can get by spending," said Watson.
Watson hopes lawmakers will establish the needs Texas has, and then figure out how to pay for it.
Still Watson said lawmaker shouldn’t get too comfortable when it comes to additional revenue. He said real, responsible change will take 140 days of hard work.
"I don't want everyone to get all excited because we have all this money,” said Senator Watson. “But, what it does is make it easier, I think, to say ‘Ok, let’s really focus on what the future looks like from a budget standpoint,’" said Watson.
Program Director for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Eva DeLuna Castro said the financial outlook seems to be enough to not have to cut state services.
“Even with a pessimistic kind of outlook about the economy slowing down, there is enough already in the Rainy Day Fund to maintain what we are doing for schools and healthcare and possibly improve on what the state is going for public education,” said Castro.