State lawmakers to decide fate of $8.8 billion surplus
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The 83rd Legislature is set to begin Tuesday morning, but the tone is much different than the it was two years ago.
As lawmakers headed into the 82nd Legislature, estimates showed that Texas faced a $27 billion shortfall. This time around, however, lawmakers will be deciding what to do with $101.4 billion in state revenue, an $8.8 billion surplus from last session.
Many are hoping the additional money will mean lawmakers will restore some of the programs which were slashed last session, namely the more than $5 billion cut from the state’s education fund.
Democratic Rep. Donna Howard says spending caps and spending limits are constitutionally imposed, meaning it will be tough to restore cuts without a vote to raise the limits or tap the state's so-called Rainy Day Fund.
"It's not as simple as having the money there, although that's a good part of the equation," Rep Howard said. "Once you factor in paying off your Medicaid IOU, paying off the school payment deferral that was part of an accounting gimmick that was used, paying off the wildfire IOUs and some other things, you pretty much get to that $6.7 billion limit even though we have a surplus of about $8.8 billion."
Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Paul Workman says he's hopeful lawmakers can restore cuts to education, but he knows more money can be a dangerous dilemma.
"In some ways, last session was easier than it's going to be this session because last session everybody pretty much knew when they came into the appropriations committee the answer was going to be no," he said.
There's also been talk of tapping the Rainy Day Fund to help fund the state's water plan.