By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Legislative leaders and Gov. Phil Bryant adopted recommendations from the state’s financial experts Tuesday that will result in the 2014 Legislature having an additional $287.2 million to appropriate.
Bryant and the 14-member Legislative Budget Committee adopted a revenue estimate of $5.36 billion for Fiscal Year 2015, which starts July 1. That represents growth of 2.7 percent, or $141.4 million, over the projected revenue for the current year.
At the same meeting, the legislative leaders revised the estimate for the current year upward by $139.8 million because during the first four months of the fiscal year revenue collections have far exceeded projections.
State Economist Darrin Webb told the state’s political leadership that even if collections slow down from the current pace the state should make the estimate for the current fiscal year.
The estimate refers to the collections of various sources of state revenue, such as from the tax on personal income, retail items, corporations, insurance premiums and casino gambling. It provides the money to fund the state general fund, areas such as education, public safety and public health.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, Budget Committee chairman this year, said considering that for the past two years revenue has grown by more than 5 percent, “I think this is a conservative estimate, but that is what we want – to make sure we don’t have some of the problems that past legislatures got into.”
If revenue does not come in at a pace to match the estimate, the Legislature and governor are forced to make cuts or to dip into reserve funds.
No one at Tuesday’s meeting objected to the recommendation of the five financial experts. Gov. Phil Bryant, who was in California where he was elected chair of the Interstate Oil & Gas Compact Commission, participated via phone.
House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, said, the economy is recovering from the 2008 recession, “but it is a slow process. That is why we are conservative in our estimate.”
While Webb said he and the other experts who make recommendations, including the treasurer and the tax commissioner, see state revenue continuing to grow, they do not expert income tax collections to grow at the nearly 11 percent pace of the 2012 fiscal year.
Webb credited that to a new emphasis by the Department of Revenue on collecting back taxes.
Both the Budget Committee and the governor will develop budget recommendations to be considered by the 2014 Legislature.