AUSTIN — The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature has a looming pivotal decision: spend an anticipated treasure trove of extra taxpayer dollars, or give the money back to Texans.
On Thursday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar announced the state government’s updated Biennial Revenue Estimate. In addition to the Texas government’s existing biennial budget of $250 billion, Hegar said the state is expecting to collect from citizens a historic $26.9 billion of surplus cash.
“In fact, many tax revenue categories reached their highest collections on record, and this fiscal year has experienced the largest one-year increase in total tax collection, as compared with the prior fiscal year, in Texas history,” Hegar said. “This is especially true of state sales taxes, where monthly collections for each of the last 15 months exceeded $3 billion and averaged $3.5 billion.”
Hegar earlier this week called the coming surplus “astonishing” and told state lawmakers to “stay seated in your seat when you read [the announced numbers].” However, Texas for Fiscal Responsibility President Tim Hardin said the thought of giving state politicians that much extra cash should scare citizens.
“This is both a historical number and potentially a dangerous one,” Hardin wrote Thursday. “Unfortunately, the most likely outcome for much of this projected surplus is that it will be spread around like that of a slush fund, enriching bureaucrats and agencies with money they plan on wasting at the expense of taxpayers.”
Hardin said the right decision should be simple—give the money back to Texans via the elimination of property taxes. Texans are now paying the sixth-highest property tax bills in the United States, and those bills have increased by 181 percent in the last 20 years.
“This once again proves that Texas does not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem,” Hardin told Texas Scorecard earlier this week. “The fact that many conservative lawmakers and even our Governor have come out and said that most of this surplus money should be given back to taxpayers in property tax relief is a good sign. TFR contends that this money is not a slush fund for the Austin establishment and their lobbyist friends but it is the taxpayers’ and it must be given back to its rightful owners.”
TFR is currently advocating their “Texas Prosperity Plan” that details eliminating property taxes for all Texans and restoring fiscal sanity in our state government. The 2022 Republican Party of Texas platform also calls on the Legislature to do the same.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who heads the Texas Senate, responded to Thursday’s news.
“I have always believed returning money back to taxpayers does not grow government. Every member of the Texas Senate will have ideas on how this additional revenue should be spent and I will give them full consideration,” Patrick wrote in a press release. “However, I believe, first and foremost, any surplus should first go back to the taxpayers of Texas. Texas homeowners must receive tax relief before we commit to any new spending.”
Patrick’s current proposal, however, only allots $4 billion to property tax relief, with other priorities including a 13th check for retired teachers and suspending the state gas tax for the rest of the year.
State lawmakers will meet over the next several months to begin making decisions on the new budget—and surplus cash—for the next two years. Concerned citizens may contact their state representatives and senator, as well as the governor.