Citing new figures from the State Equalization Board, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee is predicting a difficult budget year for state lawmakers.
The state panel revealed its preliminary estimate for the coming fiscal year today, showing the state would have approximately $14 million less to spend in FY 2000.
"Just when we thought it couldn't get any worse, it did. We knew we were going to be facing a tight budget year because of depressed oil prices, but the fact that we're actually facing a revenue shortfall certainly increases the pressure on budget writers. It's shaping up to be a very tough year," said Senator Kelly Haney.
The Senate budget leader pointed out that the latest budget estimate isn't the only challenge the state is facing. A number of financial commitments will also be coming due next fiscal year.
"A lot of bills are coming due and we have to find a way to pay them. We can't shirk our obligations just because we're facing a lean budget year," said Senator Haney.
Some of those financial commitments include:
In addition to the financial obligations, a large tax cut package passed last year will cause lawmakers to start with a smaller revenue pie. Reductions in the state income and estate taxes, and expansion of a sales tax rebate program will eat up an estimated $73.8 million dollars in the next fiscal year.
"Instead of tightening our belt another notch, we may have to go another couple of notches. It's not going to be easy or comfortable, but we really don't have any other choice," said Senator Haney.
"I think everyone will be playing it pretty close to the vest this year when it comes to budget matters. We'll approach things conservatively, do what we have to do and leave some budget initiatives on the back burner until the day we get some better revenue news."