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Comptroller reports $1.2 billion surplus; urges disaster relief special session

Austin, TX –

Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn today closed the books on the 2004-2005 biennium and reported that the state has $1.2 billion in additional revenue. She called on Gov. Rick Perry to immediately call a three-day special session of the Legislature to appropriate money to allow Texas education, security and health providers to deal with the Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort.

"This crisis now affects all Texans and the government needs to step up," she said. "Acting now, we can provide up to $1.2 billion in real relief for the $168,000 this three-day special session would cost."

"Texans have huge hearts and, thankfully we've also got the money to provide real, lasting relief to the schools, cities and counties that have opened their doors to the refugees of this horrific natural disaster," Strayhorn said.

Strayhorn said the last three months of the biennium pumped hundreds of millions of unanticipated dollars into state coffers. The rising price of oil and gas, automobile sales sparked by unprecedented dealer incentives, and a significant up-tick in overall sales all contributed to the increase.

"We need to use this good fortune for a good cause," she said. "Gov. Perry can call a quick, three-day special session of the Legislature, let lawmakers appropriate this money and get relief to our Texas communities providing relief."

Strayhorn said schools in Houston, San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, Beaumont and Tyler and all across this state can expect an influx of new students next week, police and sheriff's offices will be strained, and hospitals could be overwhelmed with refugees.

She said the money - which cannot be touched until it is appropriated by the Legislature - could be appropriated to the Legislative Budget Board and then dispersed as needed to school districts, the Department of Public Safety and local law enforcement agencies, cities and counties.

Strayhorn said that rising oil and gas prices had hurt Texans at the pump but had fueled unexpectedly strong income from the state's oil and gas severance taxes. She said she expects to transfer $905 million to the state's "Rainy Day Fund." The transfer is equal to 75 percent of the amount by which oil and gas tax collections exceed 1987 collection levels.

"We have the need, we have the cash, we need to act," Strayhorn said.

A three-day session would cost taxpayers $168,000.

More news links and relief effort resources from KERA

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