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VOL. 35 | NO. 5 | Friday, February 4, 2011




Tenn. projects revenue growth, but cuts still loom

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Tennessee's improving economy means the state will begin collecting more money, but official projections released Wednesday indicate it won't be enough to avoid deep spending cuts.

Under the best-case scenario adopted by the State Funding Board, general fund collections in the budget year beginning July 1 will increase by $353 million, or 3.65 percent.

But those increased revenues would still fall far short of the nearly $900 million in planned cuts that were put off thanks to federal stimulus money, most of which runs out this year.

Gov. Bill Haslam's administration wasn't yet ready to give a specific dollar figure for the cuts facing the state, though he suggested to reporters that the economy could outperform the official projections.

"I've been encouraged by the recent numbers, and if they'd gone a little higher I might have been OK with it," Haslam said. "But I'm very comfortable with where they are."

Haslam has good reason to believe the funding board projections might be on the extra cautious side. The panel's revised projections Wednesday for the fiscal year ending June 30 show that last year's predictions could miss the mark by at least $107 million in the best-case scenario and as much as $235 million in the worst-case scenario.

The Republican governor is scheduled to present his budget proposal to lawmakers next month.

Finance Commissioner Mark Emkes said he wants to digest the official projections before announcing the exact amount of pending reductions.

"Unfortunately there's going to have to be some significant cuts that are going to have to be made," Emkes told reporters after the funding board meeting. "I want to be very careful with the numbers I throw out."

The funding board is made up of the finance commissioner and the three constitutional officers appointed by the Republican Legislature: Comptroller Justin Wilson, Secretary of State Tre Hargett and Treasurer David Lillard.

"My primary concerns are unemployment, the instability of the sales tax and the petroleum tax," said Wilson. "But it looks very clear to me there is a recovery coming. The real issue is: How much?"

Other concerns raised by the constitutional officers included inflation, housing prices and consumer confidence.

Emkes said he has a more optimistic outlook than his colleagues on the panel, but stressed that the projections are "realistically conservative."

"You want to be as accurate as possible," he said. "But if you've got to err, you want err on the side of having a little left over than not enough."

Depending on actual tax collections this year, the panel predicted general fund collections could grow between $247 million and $353 million in the coming budget year. That's a growth rate of between 2.9 percent and 3.65 percent.

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TNLedger.com Knoxville Editon
RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 0 0 0
MORTGAGES 0 0 0
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 0 0 0
BUILDING PERMITS 0 0 0
BANKRUPTCIES 0 0 0
BUSINESS LICENSES 0 0 0
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 0 0 0
MARRIAGE LICENSES 0 0 0