Texas loses chance to send stimulus checks to residents (unlike California)

by | May 14, 2021 | Policy, Texas Legislature

Low-income residents in California have until October of this year to receive their “Golden State Stimulus,” a one-time payment of $600 for residents making under $30,000.  

A similar proposal in the Texas Legislature to deliver between $1,000 to $2,500 to Texans affected by the February snowstorm was left pending in committee this week.

The bill, carried by Houston state Rep. Ana Hernandez, would have funded direct payments to Texans with the state’s Economic Stabilization Fund, better known as the “Rainy Day Fund.”

The state piggy bank is currently expected to grow to $12.12 billion at the end of the 2022-23 biennium, per the comptroller’s latest estimate.

It’s just one example of how the Republican-controlled legislature has so far left good money to rot as Texans struggle to recover from a year-long pandemic and deadly snowstorm.

The preliminary budget passed by House lawmakers last month doesn’t include federal COVID-19 relief funding — some $38.6 billion waiting to be spent. 

That budget, which is now back in the Texas Senate, would spend $117 billion in general revenue, or about $400 million less than what lawmakers appropriated to the state budget in 2019. 

The biggest reduction in state spending is targeted at the state’s regulatory agencies. The House-passed budget would cut $80 million from the state’s regulatory functions, an overall whopping budget cut of 21 percent. 

Granted, the preliminary $117 billion budget total still exceeds the comptroller’s projected revenue for the state in the next biennium, and lawmakers entered session believing they would face a budget shortfall for the current biennium. 

But again, billions of dollars in federal aid from the covid-19 relief bill that passed in March remain on the table (something Sen. John Cornyn called a “slush fund” for blue states as the legislation moved through Congress) and the state’s massive Rainy Day Fund continues to grow.

Most of the COVID-19 relief to state agencies, local governments, and Texans has so far come from the CARES Act that passed in 2020. While some went to cities and local governments, most of it was spent by Gov. Greg Abbott in a less than transparent process that did not involve the legislature. 

If Texans are lucky, they may see some sort of large state-level covid relief or recovery bill by the end of the session this month, but that seems unlikely given the attention is on preventing another grid failure, and red meat issues for Republican voters, like transgender youth, abortion, election security, and permitless carry. 

Meanwhile in California, armed with a $75.7 billion budget surplus, Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing a second round of $600 golden checks for low-income residents as part of an enormous $100 billion economic stimulus plan. 

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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