Pursuant to the Texas Constitution, the Comptroller’s Office must certify that there are sufficient funds available in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) to cover approved spending by the Legislature before the bill is sent to the governor for approval. Various techniques, such as sweeping accounts at the end of the session and reclassifying dedicated revenue funds to general revenue, are being used to achieve this goal.
In 1991, the Legislature began phasing out restrictions on many of the dedicated revenue funds and changing the methods of fund accounting. Most dedicated revenue was held in special funds outside of general revenue, which would limit the availability of general revenue for certification purposes. Since then, the Legislature switched many of the dedicated funds into general revenue.
With the huge shortfall that is anticipated over the next several years, several key appropriations members, including Sen. Steve Ogden (R-Bryan) and Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), have filed similar companion bills that would reclassify many of the dedicated funds to be used for general revenue. Some of these re-classification bills include funding that is used to support county programs and projects. For example, HB 3790 would reclassify the judicial training and court personnel training fund by moving it from the state treasury to general revenue. This would essentially allow the Legislature to use these funds for other purposes.
At this time, it is uncertain as to whether these bills will change at a later date — due to the relating clause on each of the bills. The topic matter is fairly broad, which suggests there will be a substitute eventually.
TAC is currently working on identifying these bills and will provide a further detailed analysis in an upcoming electronic newsletter.
For more information, contact Paul Emerson, TAC state financial analyst, at (800) 456-5974.