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The latest revenue estimate certified today is further evidence that Governor Keating's budget advisers drastically missed the mark on their revenue projections last year, causing the Governor to issue a number of unnecessary vetoes that he is now trying to correct.
The State Equalization Board certified a budget estimate with approximately $284 million in additional growth revenue today, a much different picture than the $100 million budget shortfall predicted by Governor Keating and Finance Director Tom Daxon last year.
"I'm certainly glad our economic growth is continuing, but I am disturbed by the large margin of error committed by Governor Keating and his budget advisers. It makes it difficult to trust any of their budget numbers when one of their most important revenue estimates misses the mark by several hundred million dollars," said Senator Kelly Haney, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
During the waning days of the last legislative session, Governor Keating vetoed more than $20 million in appropriations, saying the state needed to save money because an economic downturn was imminent. Even though state economists disagreed with that forecast, the Governor used Daxon's errant shortfall projections to justify the vetoes.
"It would be one thing if all the economists erred on the revenue projection, but in this case, Governor Keating and Tom Daxon were the only ones who predicted an economic downturn and a budget shortfall. At the time, we urged them to listen to the vast majority of economists who were forecasting continued growth, but the Governor and Mr. Daxon insisted their numbers and their numbers alone were right. It's now clear that they were wrong. Very wrong," noted Senator Haney.
When Senator Haney first disputed the errant budget forecast issued by Daxon and Governor Keating last year, he was attacked in a press released issued by Keating's office. Governor Keating challenged Senator Haney to "promise" that the state would not have to cut the education and corrections budgets because of a revenue crisis in the next year.
"I was able to make that promise then because my budget numbers were right and theirs were wrong. To say their budget projection wasn't even in the ballpark would be giving them too much credit. It wasn't even in the same universe," noted Senator Haney.
"Consequently, Governor Keating did a lot of damage that could and should have been avoided. When you look at the latest revenue projections certified by the equalization board, it's pretty clear that his vetoes were a colossal mistake. Surely, even the Governor knows that now," said Senator Haney.
Using his veto pen, Governor Keating cut the budgets of the Ethics Commission, the Attorney General, the Corrections Department, OCAST, Vocational-Technical Education, the Agriculture Department, the State Auditor and Inspector and a variety of other agencies.
"The attorney general had to fire some good people because of the vetoes. The Ethics Commission lost its full-time investigator. The Corrections Department was unable to expand the Mabel Basset facility as planned. OCAST wasn't able to do some projects that could have helped our economic development efforts.
"There were some very serious consequences of the Governor's actions," said Senator Haney.
Apparently realizing his mistake, Governor Keating is trying to correct his vetoes this year by giving the affected agencies budget increases to offset the funds he cut last year. He is, however, attempting to conceal the correction by placing the money in next year's budget, rather than restoring the funding this year with a supplemental appropriation.
"I commend Governor Keating for trying to right the wrongs he committed last session, but I wish he would be a little more open about it. Everyone makes mistakes. The right thing to do is admit them and correct them," said Senator Haney.