Good news and bad news, because we can’t have one without the other.
The latest bit of positive fiscal news came Tuesday when the state comptroller released numbers showing that business tax collections in Texas had exceeded projections.
Comptroller Susan Combs had estimated that the franchise tax paid by businesses would bring in about $4 billion in the first year of the 2012-13 budget. The $4.3 billion collected in May has already beaten that mark, and more payments will trickle in come August.
Sales tax collections, the most important source of state revenue, have also been coming in well above projections for the budget year, which began in September, and could produce billions in unanticipated revenue.
But state agencies, in the first step toward writing the 2014-15 state budget, were instructed Monday to submit budget proposals that do not exceed what they are getting in the current two-year budget.
They must also provide plans for how to implement a 10 percent reduction during 2014-15, if necessary.
“We are getting so far and far from reality that it really endangers our future economic growth,” said Eva DeLuna Castro, a senior fiscal analyst for the Center for Public Policy Priorities, an advocacy group for low- and middle-income Texans.
State leaders have created a “new normal” as a starting point, particularly in education, and “that is a terrible place to start off on, especially when they have the money to undo the cuts,” DeLuna Castro said.
That presumes they want to, which they don’t. They will have to be made to do so, or they will have to be gotten out of the way in favor of others who want to do so. Easier said than done, of course, but there it is. And while Rick Perry, David Dewhurst, and Joe Straus are busy crowing about how their draconian policies led to these revenue increases, Burka provides a dash of reality.
Overall, tax collections have been robust, up 12.56%, year to date, over 2011 levels. Sales taxes are up 11.71%. Oil severance taxes are up 42.6%. Natural gas severance taxes are up 44.3%.
Perry, Dewhurst, and Straus can claim credit for whatever they want, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t have anything to do with putting oil and gas in the ground. EoW has more, and a statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman is here.