Jan 24, 2023 - Politics

How to spend our share of the state surplus

Illustration of a pattern of stacks of money.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

It's raining money here in Texas. What could be in it for Houston?

Driving the news: Texas is sitting on an unprecedented $32.7 billion state surplus.

  • State Comptroller Glenn Hegar said the state will also have $188.2 billion in general revenue during the 2024-2025 fiscal year, a 26% increase from the last biennium.

Why it matters: As taxpayers, it's our money, as Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted.

So … how about funding a bullet train between Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio?

Zoom in: Rep. Armando Walle (D-Houston) has a more realistic take.

  • "I will fight for these dollars to go to creating good jobs, improving our education system — not least by increasing teacher pay — and to expanding access to life-saving health care," Walle, who serves on the Legislative Budget Board and the budget-writing House Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

The latest: As Texas lawmakers consider what to do with the historic surplus, leaders are already piping in with some ideas.

  • Abbott pledged to provide the largest property tax cut in state history. And Sen. Paul Bettencourt (R-Houston), known as the "Tax Man," has vocalized his support for cutting property taxes.
  • Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants to raise the annual homestead exemption from $40,000 to $70,000, reducing the amount on which homeowners must pay property taxes.
  • Texas public university leaders, including Renu Khator of the University of Houston System, are seeking nearly $1 billion toward higher education in exchange for holding tuition flat for two years, per the Texas Tribune.

💭 Our thought bubble: We know interstate trains may be a distant dream, and here are some other very realistic options we have in mind:

  • A full-fledged public transit system within major metro cities and its suburbs.
  • Funding affordable housing projects across the state.
  • Investing in long-term housing for the homeless.
  • Relieving student debt for Texans with state education loans.
  • Adding more solar panels to homes, giving Texans the freedom to generate their own energy.
  • Investing in resources to solve the county jails' overpopulation throughout the state.

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