Texas

Texas is running an unprecedented budget surplus. What can be done with billions of dollars?

From the Texas Newsroom:

When the Texas Legislature meets for the first time this year on Tuesday, the state will be in a position it has never been in before.

The state budget surplus is unprecedented: it is estimated to be at least $27 billion, and possibly as high as $35 billion.

Why is he so tall?

Daniel Sanchez-Pignol, an economist at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, said it was all because of inflation.

“A lot of that has to do with the sales tax, and because we’re living in a high-inflation environment, that means prices have gone up,” Sanchez-Pignol said. “And every time we make a purchase, we pay sales tax.”

Property tax relief

So, many people have a question: what can the state do with the money it has?

Republicans say they want to use some of the money to provide property tax breaks.

“I want all members to understand this great opportunity they have in the House and Senate to create the future of Texas,” Lieutenant Gov. Dan Patrick told reporters in Austin last month when he unveiled his priorities.

Texas homeowners have been facing rising property taxes for years, and for Patrick, helping homeowners is his top priority.

Sanchez-Pignol said his group is also lobbying for property tax breaks. The Foundation encourages the Legislature to use the surplus to buy back so-called taxes on the upkeep and operation of the school.

“The school district will lower the property tax based on how much the state buys for them in the property tax,” Sanchez-Pignol said.

But Texas can’t put all its extra money into it. Spending limits only allow the state to spend about $12.5 billion of the surplus.

For progressive groups, this means lawmakers should instead focus on what they see as a more pressing issue.

Education and basic allowance

Eva DeLuna Castro, a government budget analyst at the leftist think tank Every Texan, said the state needs to sort out the basics first.

“It’s not overkill when we have so many unmet needs,” DeLuna Castro said. “And there are so many things the Legislature needs to invest in.”

She said public education was in dire need of funding. She proposes that the Legislature increase funding per student per state, also called the base allotment.

“2019 was an educational session where the state finally took on more responsibility for paying for our schools,” DeLuna Castro said. “So the state is taking a step forward and increasing the base amount to $6,160. That’s where it’s been since — since the fall of 2019.”

Bryan Woods, leader of San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District, also wants the Legislature to increase basic payments. He said it would automatically increase the salaries of teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians.

Woods said the Legislature doesn’t have to choose – it can prioritize both property tax and education.

“Those who portray property tax breaks or school aid are creating a false dichotomy because they are not true,” Woods said. “You can do both in an environment where the government has such a huge surplus.”

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