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There is no surplus

We may as well operate on that assumption, anyway.

Comptroller Susan Combs said Texas government “is relatively still in good shape” from tax collections, but she noted lawmakers are likely to face immediate and unavoidable spending needs that will leave the state without much of a surplus.

“There are a lot of very significant needs that are unavoidable. So I would not assume there’s going to be a very large pot of money at the end,” Combs said.

She said lawmakers likely are facing the prospect of passing a $3.2 billion supplemental appropriations bill to cover the costs of Medicaid growth, Hurricane Ike cleanup and shoring up the state wind insurance pool.

The cleanup cost for Ike is estimated to be $15 billion.

Gov. Rick Perry has asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pick up the full cost, but FEMA wants to limit the reimbursement because of a projected state budget surplus.

That would mean the state would have to pay $2 billion toward the cleanup.

Combs said the state currently is expecting to end this fiscal year Aug. 31, 2009, with $2 billion in general revenue, $3 billion available but dedicated to local property tax reductions and $6.7 billion in the state’s “rainy day” fund.

I wonder if we’ll tap into the “rainy day” fund for that supplemental Ike spending. I don’t know what the point of that fund is if this kind of emergency-need spending doesn’t qualify for it. Combs won’t say till next month how much revenue is available for the Lege to spend, so consider that $2 billion general surplus figure not to be written in stone.

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