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 Tuesday, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar presented an economic update to state lawmakers at a meeting of the Texas House Appropriations Committee (which is involved in spending decisions for the state government’s $250 billion budget).
Hegar announced the state government is not only collecting “exceptionally strong” sales tax dollars this year (which make up the majority of the state’s total revenue), but is also expected to amass an “astonishing” haul of surplus cash.
“The Texas economy has been exceptionally strong since the last revised BRE (Biennial Revenue Estimate) in November of last year,” Hegar said. “We will be releasing a revised BRE on Thursday. … But I am going to warn you … stay seated in your seat when you read it. It is astonishing growth.”
What will Republican lawmakers do with all of the untold billions of citizens’ dollars? Texans for Fiscal Responsibility President Tim Hardin says the decision should be simple: give it back to Texans by eliminating 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. “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.”
However, TFR noted that some lawmakers at Tuesday’s meeting already revealed their intentions to spend the money on other pet projects.
“It does not matter if the surplus is $7 billion or if it is $100 billion dollars, any self-proclaimed conservative worth their salt would not consent to use one cent of that money to grow government,” Hardin added. “Not only should 100 percent of the surplus be used to eliminate property taxes, but further cuts to our bloated government should also be made to bring it back to its originally intended size—so small we can barely see it.”
Comptroller Hegar is expected to announce the details of the surplus on Thursday, and state lawmakers will meet over the next several months to begin making decisions on the budget for the next two years.
Concerned citizens may contact their state representative and senator, as well as the governor.