State budget writers likely will have more funds to meet the needs of Texas in the near term, based on information released Oct. 10 by the comptroller’s office.
Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar said revenue available for general spending in 2020-21 is expected to total about $121.76 billion, up 9.6 percent from the 2018-19 biennium. This revenue would support the $118.86 billion in general-purpose spending called for by the 86th Texas Legislature and would result in a final balance available for certification of $2.89 billion.
Before each regular legislative session, the comptroller issues a biennial revenue estimate that forecasts how much money will be available for spending in the state's next two-year budget cycle. After the session, the comptroller releases the certification revenue estimate providing the detailed basis by which the comptroller certified the budget. The certification estimate revises the biennial revenue estimate to reflect legislative activity and current economic information and takes into account final revenue numbers for the recently ended fiscal year.
“In fiscal 2019, the Texas economy continued to grow at rates among the highest in the nation,” Hegar said. “We are projecting continued expansion of the Texas economy in this biennium. The most likely scenario is one of steady expansion at a pace below that of the 2018-19 biennium. Risks to the estimate, however, include ongoing uncertainty about trade and national economic policy, slowing global economic growth and volatility in energy prices resulting from instability and potential conflict in the Middle East.”
Hegar, who closely monitors the economy and state revenue, said he would keep the public informed of significant events as they arise.
Hegar distributes revenue
Comptroller Hegar on Oct. 9 announced he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $773.1 million in local sales tax allocations for the month of October.
The amount to be distributed is 5.1 percent more than the amount reported in October 2018. Allocations are based on sales made in August by businesses that report tax monthly.
Texas wages look biggest
When compared with the other 49 states, Texas boasts the highest average wages after adjusting for cost of living.
This is according to TexIndex, a tool on the Texas comptroller’s website that lets users see how Texas and its diverse regions fit into the national picture.
The comptroller has a 50-state scorecard which now includes regional data in TexIndex, allowing a more detailed look at the state. Data range from information on the state’s under-18 population and degreed professionals to home values and the state tax burden.
Syphilis testing mandated
The Texas Department of State Health Services recently announced Texas public health officials are reminding health care professionals about a new law increasing syphilis testing during pregnancy.
Texas law now mandates three syphilis tests: at the first prenatal exam, during the third trimester and at delivery. The new requirement took effect Sept. 1 and comes as the state has seen a sharp increase in the number of syphilis infections passed from mother to child.
Congenital syphilis cases reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services more than doubled last year amid an ongoing increase in syphilis among women of childbearing age and an enhanced public health effort to detect and track cases. There were 367 cases of congenital syphilis in Texas in 2018, up from 164 in 2017.
“Congenital syphilis can have devastating effects on a child, but it is preventable when treatment begins in time,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner. “Testing in accordance with the new law will provide the best opportunity to treat the infection so the infant doesn’t suffer permanent consequences.”
Update: Vaping, lung issues
The Department of State Health Services on Oct. 8 reported Texas has identified 95 cases of severe lung disease in people who report “vaping” before developing symptoms. One of the patients died.
The agency said state health officials continue to gather information about 28 other possible cases to determine whether they are consistent with the symptoms and substance use seen in cases in Texas and 48 other states.
Information about vaping and e-cigarettes is available online at dshs.texas.gov/vaping/.
Early voting schedule is set
According to the Texas Secretary of State, the 10-day period for early voting will begin on Monday, Oct. 21, and end on Friday, Nov. 1.