With state economy strong, groups ask for restored spending
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After taking cuts in funding during the last legislative session, better than expected sales tax revenues have educators and healthcare professionals asking state leaders to reinvest in their programs.
At a Wednesday press conference in the State Capitol, a coalition of health care and education professionals called on state leaders to spend the earnings of a recession-recovered state.
According to the more recent state budget forecast, Texas has collected about $36 billion in taxes this year—that’s up almost 14 percent from December of last year. That could land the state surplus about $4 billion more than the $1.6 billion surplus State Comptroller Susan Combs initially projected last year.
"Sales tax revenues have been up double digits,” Combs said. “We're seeing car sales coming back up and the consumer confidence is good. People feel good about Texas and where we are positioned."
The Center for Public Policy Priorities projects an even larger surplus by the end of next year.
"We're going to have more money available and the legislature needs to start thinking about what services they need to restore," Dick Lavine with the Center for Public Policy Priorities said.
Lavine says the deep cuts from the 2011 Legislature could be restored for public good.
"The question last time was 'what can we cut?' Now the question should be, 'What should we do to go forward to make the future for all Texans better?'" he said.
For those in this room, the answers are clear.
"Two critical building blocks of the success of Texas today and the future are education and health and continue our investment in that and looking for more ways to be efficient with the funds," Dr. Stephen J. Pont, a pediatrician at Dell Children’s Medical Center, said.
The Texas unemployment rate is holding steady just above seven percent. Nationally, the unemployment rate at 8.3 percent.
The unemployment rate locally is around 6.4 percent.