By Corrie MacLaggan
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - The Texas Legislature will have 12.4 percent more revenue to spend in the next two budget years thanks to higher-than-expected tax collections boosted by economic growth, state Comptroller Susan Combs projected on Monday.
"Texas experienced a very strong rebound from a severe recession," said Combs, who issued her biennial revenue estimate a day before the Texas Legislature convenes.
Texas has a two-year budget cycle and lawmakers will craft a 2014-2015 budget during the session, which ends May 27.
Combs forecast revenue of $101.4 billion - which the comptroller says is 12.4 percent greater than corresponding funds available for the current budget cycle - including $8.8 billion expected to remain at the end of the 2012-2013 budget cycle.
The state's general revenue collections are projected to be $96.2 billion, $3.6 billion of which would be set aside for the state's rainy-day fund.
Combs estimated that the rainy-day fund will have $8.1 billion at the end of the current budget cycle and $11.8 billion at the end of the 2014-2015 cycle.
Collections of sales tax, oil and natural gas production taxes and motor vehicle sales taxes have exceeded expectations, she added.
The comptroller now estimates that there is $90.2 billion available for the 2012-2013 budget cycle.
Two years ago, facing a budget shortfall, lawmakers underfunded the state's Medicaid program by $4.7 billion and are expected to authorize money for that when the new session begins.
GOVERNOR PLEDGES CONSERVATIVE SPENDING
Texas Governor Rick Perry said Monday that the comptroller's projection shows that the state made the right decisions two years ago in being careful with its budget in the face of a national recession. Continued...