AUSTIN, Texas — The economic damage in Texas from the coronavirus pandemic has left a nearly $1 billion deficit in the state budget as the nation's energy capital remains hampered by a slow recovery and a half-million fewer jobs than a year ago.
The forecast Monday by state officials is far brighter than bleaker projections last summer, when Republican Comptroller Glenn Hegar estimated that the shortfall could be four times as worse. Still, the deficit could result in cuts to state services as the GOP-controlled Legislature returns to work Tuesday.
Lawmakers are coming back to the Capitol at a moment when spread of the virus has never been worse in Texas. More than 13,000 patients with COVID-19 are hospitalized and the seven-day rolling average for daily new cases in Texas is more than 23,000.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has kept some business restrictions in place but has ruled out more lockdowns.
Hegar said the hospitality sector has been hardest-hit during the pandemic. He said a rebound in oil prices and production substantially improved the economic outlook in Texas from just a few months ago.
Many economists say that once coronavirus vaccines are more widely distributed, a broader recovery should take hold in the second half of the year.