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The message coming out of the state comptroller and various budget wonks in Texas is that a mess of lawsuits could put a serious dent in the state’s tax revenues.
That’s not as important as the message they’re sending to state lawmakers and political candidates who might be in the Legislature next year: Don’t get too spendy.
It’s hard to hold the line — even for conservative Republicans — if there is a lot of money available. One of the remarkable things about the current batch of officeholders is that they met last year and wrote a state budget that didn’t spend all of the money they had available.
That’s especially lucky because the oil and gas boom ran out of fuel and the state isn’t bringing in as much money as expected. The revenue shortfall has gobbled up some of that “available” money that didn’t get spent. But — here’s the important part — the economic stumble hasn’t forced the state to cut any programs or services.
Last year’s spending restraint looks pretty smart.
Next year’s legislative session won’t be so easy. Start with the end of that oil and gas boom. Mix in pending tax litigation on piping and equipment and on intangible property in movie theaters that together could lop $2 billion per year off of the state’s revenue in addition to one-time costs of up to $10.5 billion, according to the comptroller’s estimates. Litigation over the state’s busted foster care program could cost the state up to $100 million annually.
Adverse rulings in any or all of those lawsuits could put the state in a real pickle.