Pandemic-related shortfalls to likely affect state budget

Posted at 5:53 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 20:51:58-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Texas legislative session kicks off in a couple months and a top priority for lawmakers will be the state budget, But there's going to be less money to go around because of the COVID-19 pandemic shut down.

So far, according to the state comptroller, Texas has lost more than half a billion dollars in sales tax revenue.

In 2019, lawmakers passed a more than $250 billion budget, but warn that this year’s number may not be as big.

“We got a double whammy, we got hit with a pandemic and the price of oil and gas crashed, said District 20 State Sen. Juan ‘Chuy’ Hinojosa. (6)

Hinojosa vice-chaired the senate finance committee in 2019. He says the pandemic has taken a toll on state revenues.

“Our revenue stream coming into the budget sort of dried up,” said Hinojosa. “We’re now facing a $4.7 billion deficit.”

The pandemic also forced the city to adjust its budget, but the local revenue shortfall wasn’t as bad as expected.

Hinojosa says the state’s shortfall is manageable thanks to the often talked about “Rainy Day Fund”; previous budget surpluses which were tucked away and saved for when the state needs it.

“We have approximately $8.6 billion in savings,” said Hinojosa. “If our deficit is around $5 billion, plus or minus, we’ll be ok.”

If cuts are necessary, however, Hinojosa says the state will have to prioritize. He believes health care and other essential services will get first dibs on funding.

“Education is a priority, security is a priority,” said Hinojosa. “Infrastructure is a priority. I don’t think the cuts will be deep.”

Lawmakers will get another update on revenues in late-December or early-January. The 87th Texas Legislative session begins January 12th.