Texas Lobbyist News 2020

Texas Comptroller Provides Update on State’s Fiscal Situation

On Monday, July 20, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar provided an update on Texas’ fiscal condition at two meetings. At the Cash Management Committee meeting, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker of the House Dennis Bonnen, and Comptroller Hegar discussed the cash flow forecast for fiscal year (FY) 2021. Comptroller Hegar expects a 3.8 percent decrease in state gross domestic product (GDP) by the end of FY 2020, and this declining trend is expected to continue through FY 2021. Despite the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on Texas’ economy, the amount of state borrowing for FY 2021 ($7.2 billion) is actually less than FY 2020 borrowing ($8 billion). The predominant goal of the meeting was authorizing the issuance of tax revenue anticipation notes for FY 2021 and setting the maximum balance of the note, which the Committee did at the end of the meeting by approving the Comptroller’s proposal to issue up to $7.2 billion in tax revenue anticipation notes for FY 2021.

The Legislative Budget Board (LBB) held a meeting on July 20 so that Comptroller Hegar could present his report on the fiscal condition of Texas. Under the assumptions that most coronavirus-related restrictions would be lifted by the end of the year and the State would not mandate more business closures, economic activity is still not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels during FY 2021. Comptroller Hegar presented a revised Certification Revenue Estimate (CRE) projecting an ending general revenue deficit of $4.6 billion through FY 2021. Comptroller Hegar expressed optimism that although Texas and the United States are experiencing an economic downturn, Texas is in a better position than most states due to our previously flourishing economy and substantial rainy day fund.

Governor Abbott Announces Additional Higher Education COVID-19 Support Funding

On July 22, Governor Abbott announced further funding to support higher education in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The State of Texas will allocate a total of $118 million, with $93 million specifically intended to help students complete a degree or post-secondary credential. Earlier this month, Governor Abbott announced that $57 million would be distributed to make up for cuts made to financial aid programs due to the coronavirus. These allocations totaling $175 million are funded by the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed into law by President Donald Trump.

“One of the best ways to accelerate our economic recovery is to make strategic investments in our future workforce,” said Governor Abbott. “These federal funds will provide targeted assistance to keep students enrolled or help them re-enroll in higher education so they can pursue new professional economic opportunities for themselves and their families. By investing in our students and institutions, we will make our workforce and our economy even stronger.”

This new funding includes $46.5 million for upskilling and reskilling displaced workers in high-demand fields, $46.5 million in emergency student support, $15 million for strategic education and workforce data infrastructure, and $10 million to improve the quality of online learning.

House Committees Request Information on Interim Charges

The House Land & Resource Management and Culture, Recreation & Tourism Committees posted Requests for Information (RFIs) on July 20 and July 22, respectively. Posting these RFIs is one of the options for House Committees to continue conducting interim charge research during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the coming weeks, more committees are expected to post similar RFIs.

The Land & Resource Management Committee is seeking responses on interim charges concerning the implementation of HB 347 (prohibition of forced annexation), landowners’ understanding of the condemnation process and the Landowner’s Bill of Rights, property owner’s rights in eminent domain proceedings, and the State Auditor’s review of agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction. Submissions from interested parties and the public are due to Chairman Tom Craddick by August 14, 2020, at 5 pm.

The Culture, Recreation & Tourism Committee is requesting responses on charges concerning active oversight on relevant legislation, the impact of the Capitol Complex Master Plan and ongoing construction, the historical marker application process, hunter education courses, the effectiveness of the State Historic Preservation Tax Credit, and the State Auditor’s review of agencies and programs under the Committee’s jurisdiction. The submissions are due to Committee Clerk Jeff Miller by August 14, 2020, by 5 pm.