AUSTIN — The state comptroller estimates that Texas will generate $96.2 billion in general revenue in 2014-2015, a major jump in tax collection from the last two-year budget cycle.
Republican Comptroller Susan Combs on Monday was releasing her biennial revenue estimate. The crucial number sets the limit on what lawmakers can spend for 2014 and 2015, when Democrats and teachers hope to reverse, or at least bandage, deep cuts in the current budget that included $5.4 billion slashed from public education.
Combs reported Monday that the state collected $8.8 billion more revenue during the current 2012-2013 revenue cycle than she initially forecast, giving lawmakers breathing room in settling a $5.2 billion deficit in the current budget.
"Texas experienced a very strong rebound from a severe recession," Combs said.
Over the next two years, Combs expects more than $3.6 billion will automatically go into the Rainy Day Fund, which is available to lawmakers when needed. That will leave $92.6 billion for lawmakers to divvy out.
But that doesn't mean they will spend all of it.
Lawmakers don't have to spend all the money Combs says is available — and chances are they probably won't. Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst have promised to limit any increase in state spending to a sum of population growth plus inflation, or 9.85 percent.
Under current conditions, their plan would create a general revenue budget of $89.29 billion. Combs' estimate in January 2011 was $72.2 billion in general-purpose spending available.
Texas' economy is humming again after lawmakers in 2011 wrote a cut-to-the-bone budget as the nation lurched out of the Great Recession.
At the time, unemployment in the state was the highest in a decade and the Legislature faced a $27 billion shortfall. But unemployment now is at a four-year low of 6.2 percent, sales tax receipts are skyrocketing and money is pouring into state coffers behind a new energy boom.