Board takes cautious approach to Tennessee revenue estimates
Posted: Tuesday, February 8, 2011 9:04 pm
By ERIK SCHELZIG
NASHVILLE (AP) — Economic forecasts call for a growth in Tennessee revenues, but the State Funding Board is taking a cautious approach toward setting projections for the upcoming budget year.
Comptroller Justin Wil-son said at the panel’s meeting Monday that there’s no benefit to erring on the side of caution when it comes to predicting the state’s revenues.
“It’s just as damaging, I believe, to underestimate as to overestimate,” he said.
Republican Gov. Bill Haslam and lawmakers use the panel’s revenue estimates to prepare the state’s annual spending plan.
The panel, which had delayed setting official revenue projections in December, is expected to release its consensus on state revenue projections on Wednesday. Haslam is scheduled to present his budget plan to lawmakers March 14.
Besides Wilson, the panel is made up of Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes, Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Treasurer David Lillard.
Emkes, who will play a key role in crafting Haslam’s budget proposal, said he was pleased to hear of improving economic indicators.
“Sitting in that meeting today was a little bit encouraging, to see the revenues are coming up,” Emkes said. “We’re still going to have to make cuts, but today was encouraging.”
Emkes said the delay requested by the Haslam administration has given officials a better sense of the direction of the state economy.
“It always makes sense to work with as many actual numbers as possible,” Emkes said. “And that’s why the delay was requested, because it was felt the economy was coming back.”
James White, executive director of the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, said Tennessee’s work force has gained back about half the 212,000 jobs lost during the recession, but warned that it could be than two more years before the all the job losses are erased.
White said unemployment has a negative effect on sales tax, which account for two out of three tax dollars collected in Tennessee.
Published in The Messenger 2.8.11