COVID-19 Results in a $7.6B State Revenue Swing and New Rules for the State Capitol

31 July 2020 Publication
Authors: Craig P. Chick Amy Beard

The global COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect Texas state government at the highest levels. New budget predictions show a $7.6B revenue swing into the red and Governor Abbott orders the State Capitol fully closed to the public. Despite limited access, our Government Solutions team can help you stay informed.

Revised State Revenue Estimate

On Monday, July 20th, Comptroller Glenn Hegar advised the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker and lawmakers that he projects a $4.6 billion budget deficit heading into next year’s legislative session. While this sounds like a manageable number, the previous revenue estimate indicated a $3 billion surplus in cash. Therefore, the swing in revenue is actually $7.6 billion in lost revenue to the State’s budget. The reduction is associated with the recent volatility in oil markets, motor fuels taxes, and the spread of COVID-19 and its total impact on economic activity. While the federal government has provided significant funding to help the state cover COVID-19 associated costs, those funds unfortunately will not help replace the lost tax revenue from businesses that have been forced to close during this time. Hegar also predicted the state will have about $8.78 billion in its Rainy Day Fund.

Access and Advocacy in a Pandemic

As ordered by Gov. Abbott, the State Capitol has been fully closed to the public as part of the effort to reduce exposure to the COVID-19 contagion. As such, both House and Senate committees have been unable to hold interim hearings in preparation of the next legislative session. Their rules do not allow for meetings via videoconference. Consequently, the House Parliamentarians laid out three options within the rules for committees to conduct business. The options for conducting necessary oversight functions or considering interim charges issued last fall are as follows: 

  • Post Committee Chair Updates to Committee Members/Public on House Website
  • Issue a Formal Request for Information through TLO/TLIS and House Website
  • Online Events Conducted by Committee Chair

Of immediate concern, the House Appropriations Committee needs to meet to begin formulating its initial draft of the next state budget. As does the Sunset Advisory Commission, the group charged with reviewing state agencies to decide whether they should be abolished, restructured or just tweaked.

There remains a lot of uncertainty with regard to how the Capitol will be open to the public and how the chambers will operate and conduct the peoples’ business. The process and building are simply not set up for social distancing. The public, the lobby, the press and legislators, all play a necessary role in the function of government and our team remains in close communication with state leadership to monitor how the members of the 87th Legislature will conduct business safely.

Authors

Craig P. Chick

Director, Public Affairs

Amy Beard

Public Affairs Advisor Sr

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