By Jonathan Nelson
As Texas lawmakers prepare for the 88th Texas Legislature scheduled to begin January 10, 2023, they will have an estimated $27 billion in extra revenue to spend, according to a letter to state leadership last week from Comptroller Glenn Hegar. On top of that, the state’s “rainy day fund” will have swollen to $13.6 billion when the Legislature convenes, an increase of $3.5 billion since the comptroller’s last report. Inflation on consumer goods and high prices for oil and gas have led to unprecedented revenues from sales taxes for the state.
The July 14 letter detailed a revision to the comptroller’s Certification Revenue Estimate, which is presented to the Legislature in advance of each regular legislative session.
“This revised estimate includes a net decrease in projected general revenue-related spending of $1.5 billion yet is mostly driven by tax revenues that rebounded strongly in recent months after being suppressed by the pandemic in the previous biennium,” Hegar said in a press release. “In fact, many tax revenue categories reached their highest collections on record, and this fiscal year has experienced the largest one-year increase in total tax collection, as compared with the prior fiscal year, in Texas history.”
The Texas Legislature meets for 140 days every two years and its only required duty is to pass the state budget for the next biennium. To enter a session with a surplus of revenue is not unheard of, but the comptroller’s revised revenue estimate means lawmakers will have significant opportunities to address problems that have dogged the state for decades.
Almost one in five Texans do not have health insurance (18.4%). With 5.4 million uninsured people in the state, Texas holds the dubious distinction of having the highest percentage and the highest number of uninsured people in the nation. Yet Texas remains only one of 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. A poll released by the Episcopal Health Foundation in 2020 shows that 69% of Texas think the state should expand Medicaid so uninsured Texans can access affordable health care.
Many Texans also have difficulty accessing primary care because the state doesn’t produce enough primary care physicians. For decades the Legislature has provided funding for family medicine residency programs through the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, but in recent years, that funding has been cut dramatically. In 2010, family medicine residency programs received about $14,500 in THECB funds for each resident in training. This year, they received only $5,000 per resident. TAFP will continue to call for increased funding for family medicine residency programs to shore up our state’s primary care physician workforce.
For more information about the comptroller’s 2022-23 Certification Revenue Estimate, check out this infographic from the comptroller’s office.