The COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone in unbelievable ways. A year ago, we couldn’t have imagined that we’d be where we are today. And we certainly all grieve over the cost in lives and livelihoods lost in getting to this point.
To adapt to the changes created by the pandemic, the Texas Association of Counties (TAC) has used technology in innovative ways to continue to provide services to our members. Under the leadership of TAC Executive Director Susan Redford, we were encouraged to take intelligent risks to ensure the annual conference would be held for the benefit of our members. We chose the virtual platform and the entire TAC organization collaborated with the Legislative Division to support our efforts to deliver.
TAC’s 2020 Legislative Conference attracted more than 1,000 registrants, a record.
TAC's media relations strategist Jody Seaborn and social media strategist Shiloh Perry covered the conference live on Twitter, and a press release reporting on Hegar’s remarks was published by various news outlets across the state including the Houston Chronicle, San Antonio Express-News, Beaumont Enterprise and Midland Reporter-Telegram. The economic decline caused by the pandemic and low oil and gas prices has sharply reduced the state’s revenue collections and left legislators anticipating a budget crisis when they meet next year. In July, Hegar issued a revised revenue estimate projecting a $4.6 billion deficit when the current two-year budget cycle ends in August 2021; he originally had projected a $2.9 billion surplus. He will provide a revenue estimate for the 2022-23 biennium before the Legislature convenes in January.
A primary difficulty with forecasting COVID-19’s economic impact is its "course and repercussions can’t be confidently predicted," Hegar said during the Legislative Conference. But "difficulties don’t amount to excuses" for state and local leaders, who must navigate the uncertain course before them, he added.
Hegar said that as his family, like many Texas families, has negotiated the uncertainties surrounding the new school year, he’s told his three children, "In 2020, one of the words is ‘flexibility.’ Another is ‘adaptability.’" They’re words worth keeping in mind as the state gets closer to next year’s session, he said.
Hegar 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.
TAC’s annual Legislative Conference provided a forum for county officials, who have played a leading role in responding to COVID-19, to talk through legislative issues affecting their constituents and to look ahead to the 87th session of the Texas Legislature. Sessions included discussions of mental health resources available to Texas counties, law enforcement’s response to COVID-19, the adjustments counties have had to make to Senate Bill 2 during the pandemic, preparations for November’s general election and the 2020 Census and redistricting.
For more information on this article, contact Noe Barrios.