Texas will have some $98.9 billion in general revenue for state budget makers to work with in the 2014-2015 biennium, according to Texas Comptroller Susan Combs’ revenue estimate.
Combs delivered the estimate to Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus and every member of the state House and Senate on Dec. 12.
“This available revenue,” Combs said, “supports general revenue spending of $96.31 billion for the 2014-2015 biennium producing an expected revenue balance of $2.58 billion.”
Turning to the economy to help explain the surfeit of revenue, she added, “Texas has recovered 100 percent of the jobs lost in the recession and has added 597,000 beyond the previous peak in August 2008.”
Gov. Perry welcomed Combs’ official estimate.
“Texas government budgets like Texas families, limiting spending and saving hard-earned dollars,” he said. “As a result, Comptroller Susan Combs estimates our current 2014-2015 budget will end with a positive balance of nearly $2.6 billion. What’s most remarkable is we’ve done this while passing $1.4 billion in tax cuts, and we’ve made historic investments in water and, if voters approve, roads.”
SECRETARY OF STATE RESIGNS
Texas Secretary of State John Steen on Dec. 13 announced he would step down next month to return to his private law practice and continue managing his family’s investments.
Appointed by Gov. Perry in November 2012, Steen, Texas’ 108th secretary of state serves as the state’s chief election officer. Duties of the office include the storage and preservation of official and business and commercial records required by law to be filed, publication of government rules and regulations, the commissioning of notaries public, the keeping of the state seal and attestation to the governor’s signature on official documents.
The secretary of state also serves as senior advisor and liaison to the governor for Texas Border and Mexican Affairs and serves as chief international protocol officer for Texas.
WATER CASE CLEARS HURDLE
The U.S. solicitor general’s office on Dec. 10 said the State of Texas has provided enough legal evidence to move forward with its water compact dispute case against the state of New Mexico before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Earlier this year, Texas filed its original action claim against New Mexico asserting damages to Texas from New Mexico’s diversions of project water below Elephant Butte that have harmed Texas’ allocation as set forth in the Rio Grande Project and the 1938 Rio Grande Compact.
Texas, New Mexico and Colorado each filed briefs on the case. The U.S. Supreme Court asked the U.S. Solicitor General to weigh in on the case before deciding to take the action.
Chairman Bryan W. Shaw of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality commented, saying, “While Texas is loath to sue our New Mexico neighbor, river compacts are law, Texas rightfully depends on water apportioned under the law, and the compacts must be enforced.”
SCOTUS HEARS AIR CASE
The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 10 heard oral arguments in EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, a case contesting the federal agency’s cross-state air pollution rule that would require Texas and 27 other states to reduce power plant emissions that cross state lines.
Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman said the rule “threatens the viability of the Texas lignite mining industry, jobs and severely hampers economic growth. If the rule is implemented, many Texas coal-fired power plants may be forced to limit or shut down operations.”
A decision by the high court is expected by June 2014.
TRAVIS DA KEEPS JOB
Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg was not forced to resign, pursuant to a Dec. 11 ruling by visiting Judge David Peeples of San Antonio on a petition to seeking to remove her from office.
Lehmberg, who also serves as the chief enforcer of the state’s ethics laws on upper-tier officeholders, was arrested and jailed last April for driving while intoxicated. Her behavior following her arrest was recorded and widely publicized.
Following the civil court hearing, Lehmberg said, “I deeply regret my actions on April 12th and have taken full responsibility. I am committed to carrying out my responsibilities as district attorney and to continue serving the voters of Travis County.”
UT FOOTBALL COACH RESIGNS
Mack Brown, head football coach for The University of Texas, gave his farewell press conference on Dec. 15, after 16 years at the helm. Brown’s salary is an estimated $5.4 million, making him one of the three highest-paid college football coaches in the nation.
Ed Sterling is director of member services for the Texas Press Association.