As the Chinese coronavirus, government responses, and oil price war assail the Texas economy, more and more Texas families are staring down the barrel of a bear market, reduced pay, and potential job loss. And when Texas families are suffering financial shortfalls, the state likely isn’t very far off.
Already, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar has told members of the Texas Legislature to expect him to update his revenue estimates significantly downward in a few months—a move that means he expects the Texas Legislature will likely not have enough money to pay its bills.
How bad is this projected shortfall? Well, Hegar has also declined to postpone sales tax remittances for Texas businesses—something routinely done in the wake of hurricanes and other natural disasters (though those are often done in a geographically limited way).
Hegar claims the dollars are necessary to support emergency operations.
“I know this will be difficult for many businesses—especially small businesses—that are facing a severe downturn in customer activity,” Hegar said in a press release. “These dollars, however, represent money collected from individual Texans, and Texans expect those dollars to be available to provide emergency healthcare and support other emergency operations during this difficult time.”
“My office is charged with allocating local dollars back to communities fighting on the front lines of this outbreak. They rely heavily on these dollars to operate hospitals, police, fire, and other emergency services. I’m extremely sympathetic to our small businesses struggling through this pandemic, but I ask our partners in the business community to make a good-faith effort to pay taxes held in trust from before the outbreak began impacting their operations,” he added.
Perhaps preparing for an emergency response is the entirety of the reason behind Hegar’s decision to stick to the sales tax remittance deadline, but some around the Texas Capitol are already speculating that the reason for holding back on a waiver is the state anticipates cash flow shortages in the near-term or that the Comptroller expects delinquent businesses to go under.
In either case, it emphasizes what we’ve said at Texans for Fiscal Responsibility: just as every Texas family is going over their budget right now and looking for ways to cut back in the midst of this economic uncertainty, Texas lawmakers must do the same with the taxpayer dollars they’ve been entrusted with.
If lawmakers are willing to make cuts, there’s no better start than the very first entity funded by the Texas budget—the Commission on the Arts.
Created by the Texas Legislature in 1965, the Texas Commission on the Arts has been doling out taxpayer dollars to select companies, artists, or as they put it, “[advancing] our state economically and culturally by investing in a creative Texas.”
How much money? Nearly $30 million is budgeted for an agency staff of 14 employees, with the sole purpose of wasting taxpayer dollars a couple thousand at a time.
In Democrat State Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston’s district alone, the Texas Commission on the Arts spent $324,954 in 2019.
What did they fund? $11,500 went to the Asia Society Texas chapter. $8,000 went to Catastrophic Theatre Inc. $16,000 went to Da Camera of Houston. $12,500 went to DiverseWorks.
You get the idea.
For reference, that’s enough to cover the salaries of 478 teachers, assuming they make the state average of $53,000.
This article is part of an ongoing series by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility to identify areas the Texas Legislature can cut in order to prioritize funding for public needs and property tax relief.
If you have ideas or suggestions of your own, please submit them to us, and we will explore their feasibility and financial effect. You can reach us at [email protected].