AUSTIN — The U.S. Army on July 12 announced its new Futures Command would be headquartered in Austin “to better partner with academia, industry and innovators in the private sector, while providing a good and affordable quality of life for Futures Command personnel.”

After the announcement, Gov. Greg Abbott said the state of Texas “is proud to partner with the U.S. Army in establishing the Futures Command to harness the cutting-edge technologies needed to build an innovative, research-based foundation for our national defense." 

“This sweeping reorganization of the Army’s military efforts adds to the historic connection between Texas and the U.S. military, and I am proud of their presence in the Lone Star State,” Abbott added.

As stated in the Army’s official news release, the command, which began operations on July 1, will lead the Army's future force modernization enterprise and is expected “to assess the future operational environment, emerging threats and new technologies in order to develop and deliver concepts, requirements, future force designs and modern materiel solutions to meet our soldiers’ wartime needs.”

The establishment of the command marks the most significant reorganization of the institutional Army since 1973. At full operating capacity in summer 2019, some 500 personnel will be attached to the command. 

Paxton supports nominee 

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on July 12 announced that he had joined the attorneys general of 25 other states in a letter urging U.S. Senate leaders to confirm President Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh, 53, currently is a member of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

“Throughout his career,“ wrote Paxton, “Judge Kavanaugh has demonstrated an abiding commitment to the principles and freedoms on which our country was founded, and an unshakable respect for the proper role of the courts within our constitutional structure. The Senate should confirm President Trump’s choice without delay.”

Joining Paxton in signing the letter were the attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Meanwhile, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa issued a statement referring to Kavanaugh as “a judicial extremist who has no business on our highest court.”

“Let’s be clear,” wrote Hinojosa, “a vote for Kavanaugh is a vote to gut the Affordable Care Act, overturn Roe v. Wade and turn back the clock on our fundamental rights. Judge Kavanaugh has a record of siding with powerful interests over consumers and workers and would fail to be an independent check on Trump.”

Revenue exceeds estimate

Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar on July 11 revised his official state revenue estimate, announcing better-than-expected revenue growth in fiscal 2018 and an improved economic outlook for fiscal 2019. 

In a letter to state leaders, Hegar said Texas would have $110.17 billion in general revenue-related funds available for general-purpose spending for the 2018-19 biennium, resulting in a projected ending balance of $2.67 billion. In the fall of 2017, Hegar projected an ending balance of $94 million.

Hegar attributed much of the improved revenue estimate to an economic boost related to rising oil prices and production. Additionally, Texas added more than 350,000 new jobs in the 12 months ending in May 2018 and the state’s unemployment rate in recent months has been at or near historic lows.

“Though nearly all current economic indicators remain positive and revenue collections have exceeded our previous expectations, there are significant risks to the forecast,” Hegar said. “A trade war, a withdrawal from the North American Free Trade Agreement or a significant downturn in the price of oil would reduce our potential economic growth. The current outlook, however, is for continued growth through fiscal 2019 for both the economy and state revenue.” 

Revenue is distributed

In other economic news, Comptroller Hegar announced July 11 that he would send cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts $759 million in local sales tax allocations for July.

The amount is 11.6 percent more than the amount reported in July 2017.

Allocations are based on sales made in May by businesses that report tax monthly.

TxDOT announces grants

The Texas Department of Transportation on July 3 announced the awarding of some $82 million in state and federal grants to fund public transportation providers in rural, small urban and large urban areas of Texas.

Overall, the grants are intended to help pay for maintenance of vehicles and facilities, vehicle purchases and transit facility improvements and regionally coordinated public transportation planning efforts.

A TxDOT statement added that the funding “ultimately pays for resources that give Texans access to transportation so they can get to and from school, job training, health care appointments, businesses and recreational activities.”