Committee to explore spending

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For centuries the American Flag has served as a beacon of freedom and liberty the world over. From the cobblestone streets at Yorktown to the deserts of the Middle East, countless American patriots have fought valiantly under the stars and stripes that symbolize the unified strength and resolve of our great nation.

As Flag Day approaches, and in a time when some choose to protest our flag, it may never be more appropriate to show reverence by taking a moment to reflect and appreciate the American flag for what it represents.

With that, here's an update from your State Capitol.

Appropriations

The next committee we'll explore on our series of interim charges is the House Appropriations Committee. This 27-member committee has been tasked with a staggering 18 interim charges that range from examining financial assistance to areas affected by Hurricane Harvey, to studying the allocation of municipal waste disposal fees.

As a member of this committee for all three sessions that I've served as your State Representative, I have a sincere appreciation for the work that goes into creating our state budget, as well as how each biennial budget reflects the unique priorities and challenges of that particular legislative session.

During the interim, much of the work is driven by the needs of committee members who work with the Legislative Budget Board, along with the Comptroller of Public Accounts, to formulate a base budget for the upcoming legislative session.

While in previous years Comptroller Hegar has informed Appropriators that our revenues are stagnant, we were delighted to hear recently that the state economy is strong with revenues soaring above previous levels. In fact, the Comptroller indicated that if revenues continue to increase at the current rate, he will have to issue a new Revenue Estimate later this summer.

Higher revenues from local and state sales taxes, the state franchise tax, motor vehicle sales taxes and oil and gas production taxes means that Texans are enjoying the fruits of a healthy economy. That said, no time is better to have a healthy influx of money in the state treasury, as we have a number of obligations to cover when we reconvene in January of 2019.

The Legislature is estimating about $1 billion in recovery expenses from Hurricane Harvey, $1 billion in expenses to shore up TRS-Care for our retired teachers, and about $1.5 billion in state highway fund dollars to cover expenditures we used last session to improve public education and border security.

While we certainly have our work cut out for us, rest assured that the Appropriations Committee will continue working with our federal counterparts, as well as other interested parties, to ensure that we are addressing these obligations with thoughtful, fiscally prudent solutions that taxpayers demand and deserve.

Reminders

The mobile office is on the road for the month of June and looks forward to seeing you on the following dates, in the following locations: June 20 in Crockett at the Houston County Courthouse Annex from 9-11 a.m. or in Groveton at the Trinity County Courthouse from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Finally, we will be in San Augustine on June 27 at the San Augustine County Courthouse from 9-11 a.m.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office if we can help you in any way. Our district office may be reached at (936) 634-2762, or you can call my Capitol office at (512) 463-0508.

Trent Ashby represents District 57, which includes Madison County, in the Texas Legislature.

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