AUSTIN -- After a long run of tough times brought on by a sour economy, Texas lawmakers got some good news Monday as the state's chief fiscal officer projected a $1.6 billion surplus that could provide a much-needed financial cushion for the next session of the Legislature.
The windfall available for the fiscal biennium that started Sept. 1 was generated by better-than-expected state revenue. It could enable lawmakers to partly offset a $4.8 billion shortfall in Medicaid and soften some other cuts enacted during the 2011 Legislature, analysts said.
The new projections by Comptroller Susan Combs will make things easier for budget-writers at the outset of the next legislative session in 2013, although lawmakers will still face a host of financial challenges.
Combs projected available revenue of $82.7 billion by the time the biennium ends on Aug. 31, 2013, which would give the state a $1.6 billion balance over the $81.1 billion in the two-year budget approved by this year's Legislature.
Lawmakers entered the 2011 session facing one of the biggest shortfalls in years.
They ultimately enacted an austere budget that cut spending by $15.2 billion over the previous biennium and reduced state aid to public education by $4 billion.
In fulfilling her obligation to certify available revenue used to balance the current budget, Combs attributed the upturn in revenue from taxes and other sources to Texas' continued economic recovery, although she said both the state and the nation continue to face the effects of economic dislocations.
"While the threat of another recession does exist," she said, "the most likely scenario continues to be one of slow, steady recovery from the worst recession in our state since World War II."
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