Texas AFT President Linda Bridges offered the following comment today on the state comptroller's announcement of the official biennial revenue estimate, which will guide the new state legislature in its budget deliberations beginning tomorrow:
“Texas lawmakers begin their budget work tomorrow with revenue flowing into the state treasury at a prodigious pace. Even under the conservative initial revenue estimate for 2014-2015 announced by Texas Comptroller Susan Combs today, it is clear that the legislature will have the money to undo severe cuts in education and health care enacted in 2011. Today's revenue forecast leaves no excuse for state leaders and the legislature-they have the money, if they have the will, to restore the funds cut last session, including $5.4 billion in unprecedented cutbacks to public education.
“It turns out that two years ago the comptroller seriously underestimated state revenue for 2012-2013-so much so that the new legislature will have at its disposal $8.8 billion in leftover revenue that was not anticipated in the last biennial revenue estimate, as Comptroller Combs acknowledged today.
“In addition, for 2014-2015 the comptroller today projected that the legislature also will have $92.6 billion in available general revenue coming into state coffers. On top of that, Comptroller Combs further projected a rise to nearly $11.8 billion in the Economic Stabilization Fund–the state's ready-reserve fund, informally known as the Rainy Day Fund, created to sustain state financial support for essential services such as education when revenue has temporarily dropped during an economic downturn.
“The upshot is that Texas lawmakers now can count on having more than $113 billion at their disposal–$101.4 billion in available general revenue and $11.8 billion in the Economic Stabilization Fund-presenting them with a real opportunity to undo the needless damage done to public education and other core services in the 2011 session. We urge them to seize that opportunity and to reject the unwise counsel of those who would again needlessly sacrifice our children's and our state's future prospects by continuing the deep cuts of 2011 in the 2014-2015 budget.”