Population and job numbers in Texas have continued increasing in the past year, according to Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, who spoke Thursday at an Oak Hill Business and Professional Association meeting in Southwest Austin.
The comptroller’s office estimates financial effects of proposed laws, manages state investments, and collects budgeting data to determine potential amounts that state taxes, fees and other revenue sources will produce. Here are a few of the things Hegar said he has learned that he shared with attendees:
1. Unemployment remains low. Texas has had a lower unemployment rate than the national average for the past 119 months, he said. The state has also continued to gain jobs for 19 of the the past 20 months. The financial sector, real estate, insurance, retail and health care are among the industries that are still growing, Hegar said, noting the oil and gas industry has struggled, but 49 percent of U.S. oil rigs that are still running are in Texas.
2. There are a lot of people here. The population in the capital region has increased 36 percent compared with the state average, which is 20 percent. The national average is around 9 percent between 2004 and 2014, Hegar said.
3. Texas has the 10th largest economy in the world. Hegar manages about $105 billion per year in his role as comptroller for the state, he said.
4. Education and health and human services are key focus areas for the budget. About 37 percent of the state's budget goes toward public education, Hegar said. He estimated another 37 percent now goes to Health and Human Services, an area that is growing and absorbing much of the budget due to "astronomical" costs. As of 2013, there were more than 5 million uninsured Texans and the state ranked 50th in terms of population under age 65 without health insurance, according to the comptroller's website. State leadership will have some tough choices to make as part of the upcoming legislative session, Hegar said.
The comptroller’s office provides the public with tools, such as an online 50-state scorecard residents can use to determine how Texas ranks compared with other states and its Transparency Stars program, which recognizes local governments for going above and beyond in terms of transparency.
OHBPA meetings take place monthly in Southwest Austin.