As Texas and the nation adjust to a second month of business closures because of the coronavirus pandemic, so too are the state’s economic forecasters.
“I know that we’ve been through past events and we’re going to get through this one as well,” Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, the state’s top financial officer, tells Texas Standard host David Brown in an interview Thursday. “It’s going to be very rough but we’re going to get through it one more time.”
Hegar, a former state lawmaker, served in the Texas Legislature during previous downturns. Since 2015, he’s been the state’s comptroller, and is in charge of the state’s annual $126 billion budget.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll, so do the forced closures of businesses.
“Things changed very rapidly as we’re fighting this pandemic. I know we have several storms on the horizon that we’re going to have to get through,” Hegar says.
More data is needed to know exactly how the budget will have to be adjusted. Hegar is expected to have a revised budget based on newer data by late summer. But so far, Hegar sees no need for a special legislative session this year before it meets again in January 2021. Currently, the governor has the ability to move money to provide agencies with additional resources to fight the pandemic and that is happening he says, adding: “We don’t have to be in a legislative session.”
Hegar detailed how the state started strong this year when it came to sales tax revenue. But for a state without a state income tax, it will require a lot of belt-tightening for agencies. But cuts can’t be so severe that businesses can’t get help immediately from agencies when they are ready to reopen for business.
“We’ve never seen anything of this magnitude so quickly. Yet, again, I firmly believe that the Texas economy had a very strong base. We’ve got a lot of different tools in our toolbox for state government trying to deal with the budgetary issues that are coming,” Hegar says. “We have faced downturns before, and I feel very strongly that we’re going to get over this one as we have with those in the past. But we don’t know the exact impact of how deep or how wide it is right now because … we just don’t have good data.”
Written by Terri Langford.