The COVID-19 pandemic transformed Texas’ financial outlook from having a multi-billion dollar “cushion” to being in a “multi-billion dollar shortfall,” Comptroller Glen Hegar told those attending the virtual Texas Association of Counties’ 2020 Legislative Conference.
The virtual assemblage opened on Wednesday, Aug. 26.
More than 1,000 registrations were received for the conference, which set a record, the organization says. The annual conference “provies a forum for county officials to talk through legislative issues affecting their constituents. The conference is also looking ahead to the 87th Texas Legislature, which will convene in January.
The pandemic, coupled with low oil and gas prices, both contributed to the looming budget crisis. A revised revenue estimate released by Hegar on July 20 detailed a shortfall of $.58 billion, replacing the $2.89 billion cushion Hegar had projected last October. He will make a new revenue estimate before the Legislature convenes.
A primary difficulty with forecasting COVID-19’s economic impact is its “course and repercussions can’t be confidently predicted,” Hegar said. But “difficulties don’t amount to excuses” for state and local leaders, who must navigate the uncertain course before them, the comptroller added.
He urged families to heed the key words of “flexibility and “adaptability” as they negotiate the uncertainties surrounding the new school.
He said he expects the rainy day fund to end fiscal 2021 with an $8.8 billion balance. “Frankly, the rainy day fund was designed for purposes just like this,” Hegar said of the emergency account formally known as the Economic Stabilization Fund.
The TAC Legislative Conference continued through Friday. Sessions included discussions of mental health resources available to Texas counties, law enforcement’s response to COVID-19, the requirements of Senate Bill 2 during the pandemic, preparations for November’s general election, and the 2020 Census and redistricting.