The Revenue Estimating Conference, the state’s official income predictors, met Monday afternoon to adopt new revenue projections for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1.
LSU economist Dr. Jim Richardson had immediate concerns about the Jindal administration’s numbers, which included $54-million extra in anticipated tax collections.
“We’re putting a number in a budget that we really have no basis for—except our best guesses,” Richardson said of the amount, which was based on an efficiency program the Louisiana Department of Revenue is just starting to implement.
“Suddenly we’re going to have this program up and like that, we’re going to have 54-million dollars by June 30th, 2015?” Richardson asked. “That’s what I find difficult to believe, and difficult to accept.”
State Revenue Secretary Tim Barfield explained the number was based on what similar programs have accomplished in Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
“We will get some fruits from it,” Barfield insisted. “We can beg to differ over the amounts, but I think that putting zero on it is absolutely unreasonable.”
House Speaker Chuck Kleckley also had reservations about including $54-million from an untried program in the official revenue forecast.
“Will it happen, or will it not happen? You know, I don’t have any idea,” Kleckley said. “But the last thing that I want to do is adopt a forecast and then come back in December or this time next year and say, ‘Well, we were predicting 54-million. It didn’t happen’.”
Senate President John Alario moved to strip that particular amount from the FY 2015 predicted revenues, and Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols reluctantly agreed.
The agreed-upon forecast for this next fiscal year did recognize an additional $64-million in revenues, over and above what is in the House-approved version of the next budget. That means the state Senate has some money to play with when they vote on that budget next week.