After you have checked underneath the couch pillows and between the cars seats, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar says you might go online and check Texas’ Official Unclaimed Property Site. There’s $200 million listed belonging to Tarrant County residents.
Hegar was at City Club in Fort Worth last Wednesday to headline the Fort Worth Chamber’s Leaders in Government series, presented by Kelly Hart. The comptroller is Texas’ Chief Financial Officer, the state’s treasurer, check writer, tax collector, procurement officer and revenue estimator.
Four years ago, when he was elected, Texas’ economy was the 12th largest in the WORLD. With zero growth since then, Texas is 10th, having passed Canada and Russia. “’Hegar, you’re an Aggie,’ he was told. ‘What kind of Aggie math is that?’” Hegar says, “I don’t know why everyone is so concerned with Russia. We should be concerned about Texas.”
Hegar explained that he forecasts the two-year Legislative revenue numbers available to spend in the next budget on the second Monday in January 2019. Those numbers determine the state’s spending limits for fiscal 2019-20 and 2020-21. He wondered aloud how many attendees were comfortable forecasting their spend for two years and nine months in advance. It’s a tough job.
Hegar said tax collection is 12 percent higher than anticipated. (“Have you heard of the Permian Basin?”) During the past 12 months, Texas has gained 406,000 jobs. “The treasury looks much healthier.”
He was asked if the budget would be better for the 2019 Legislature to allocate. “I haven’t decided yet. Trends are that, yes, it’s going to be better,” he said. But he remains tempered, explaining that the longest economic recovery in history gives “pause for caution on what’s coming.”
His thoughts on other areas:
Rainy day fund: “A two-thirds vote is needed in both Chambers, which limits what gets spent.” Disasters and an economic downturn in 2007 left $2 billion in the fund. It’s now at $11.9 billion (Think Permian Basin). “Oil will be over again at some point … I’d like to have a reserve, a plan in place for endowments, etc…
He explained a Catch-22 in the way the money works / doesn’t work. “Your credit rating is hurt when you touch the money; if you don’t spend it, you don’t have credit.”
Trade: Texas does $650 billion on imports and exports, the largest in the country; “California and Washington together is not as big,” Hegar said. “It’s healthy to re-do trade agreements. Protect our IP. It is, however, a potential drag on our economy.”
School funding: The state sends 49 percent of its share of funding to local ISDs from October through December. Most local ISDs don’t receive their money until January, so the state steps in early to help.
Transportation: In addition to school funding, Hegar said he is a proponent of major funding for transportation. There are 570 new Texans daily and 520 more that move here. “Now you know why you are stuck in traffic,” he said. As a state, Hegar said we’re healthy, but when you turn a blind eye to infrastructure, “you’re not healthy.”
Natural disasters: Hurricanes, hail and wildfires cost approximately $300 million a year. “Hurricane Harvey is going to be about a billion dollars, minimum.”
Lottery: One third of lottery dollars goes to the state. The $1.6 billion Powerball had minimal impact, “a few million.”
“Questions, comments, complaints?” Hegar asked toward the end of his talk. “If you think you’ll be the first to complain, you’re mistaken.”
Photo Credit: CBS11