The 83rd session of the Texas legislature kicks off Tuesday and Monday state lawmakers got some good news. The amount of money available to draft a new budget is estimated to top $100 billion.
The sound of Native American drums echoed through the capitol Monday afternoon. Members of the Lippan Apache tribe danced under the dome to celebrate the 176th anniversary of a peace treaty with the Republic of Texas. Not far away - state Comptroller Susan Combs was also celebrating.
"Well I was pretty perky," said Comptroller Combs.
The Comptroller is all smiles because of her new revenue estimate for state lawmakers. There will be $101.4 billion available for budget writers. That's almost $30-billion more than what combs estimated 2 years ago during a deep recession.
"And we're lucky to be in right now in a very significant oil and gas based effort along with the motor vehicle sales tax, other states do not have some of these extra benefits," said Combs.
But this big revenue rebound did not have conservative or liberal analysts exactly jumping for joy.
"If you go on a spending binge and you have a cooling of the economy then you are not able to funds what you've promised the people," said Talmadge Heflin with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.
Being Penny Wise may not be enough according to Dick Lavnie with the Center for Public Policy Priorities.
"So adjusting for inflation and population growth it would take $108 billion just to get back to where we were before the recession," said Lavine.
Combs also warned a sluggish global economy and an ongoing congressional budget battle could drive her estimate down.
Before state lawmakers can start crunching the numbers for a new budget they still have to take care of a few IOU's from the last session.
One of the first checks will be written to Medicaid -- and its big, nearly $5-billion. State Senator Dan Patrick is not too worried about paying those bills - neither is State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa ( D ) McAllen. Dividing up what's left will prove to be the greater challenge.
"So we will have more money than last session, yes, but we not going to have a huge surplus, except for the Rainy Day Fund," said Senator Hinojosa.
State Senator Dan Patrick (R) Houston also offered a warning for his colleagues.
"We cannot get into the trap that other states that are broke that have gotten into in the past, or other countries, where when times are good they spend everything they have thinking they are always going to be good," said Sen. Patrick.
The coming debates could prove to be so heated-- the next celebration dance under the dome may not take place until after the session ends in May.