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|Fannin: $1-billion surplus forthcoming|
The Revenue Estimating Conference most likely will declare the state has a $1-billion surplus on its hands stemming from the 2007-08 fiscal year.
That's according to Rep. Jim Fannin, D-Jonesboro, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Fannin spoke at a Monroe Chamber of Commerce event Wednesday at Monroe Civic Center.
The surplus will be realized once the estimating conference closes the books on the 2007-08 fiscal year. It's not unusual for the estimating conference to wait six months after a fiscal year ends before declaring whether the state ran a surplus or a deficit.
The additional funds, or non-recurring revenues, must be spent on one-time expenditures for items such as highway construction projects, education, debt reduction payments and other items outlined by the state constitution, Fannin said.
However, Fannin said the estimating conference also has predicted the state will have $200 million in less revenues in 2009.
"As we move forward, five years from now, we will be $1 billion short in revenues compared to where we were in 2007-2008," Fannin said.
"That's tremendous, and it's going to be worse than that because the $300 million in Stelly we gave back is not figured into that, and there were other dollars that we gave back during this session," Fannin said, referring to the Legislature's decision to roll back income tax hikes the Stelly Plan ushered into law some five years ago.
"So, it's closer to $400 million in less revenue in the state general fund that we will have as we move forward," Fannin said. "That will take a tremendous budgeting effort."
Fannin said oil, energy and natural gas will continue to pour millions of dollars into the state general fund, but he warned of building a budget based on tax collections thanks to a robust oil and gas industry.
"We need to use those dollars for our highways and our one-time expenses, but we certainly do not need to build a budget on the price of oil," Fannin said. "It's a dangerous thing to do."
Fannin was joined by Sen. Mike Walsworth in saying one of the most productive outcomes of the Regular Session this year was doing away with the Legislature's habit of using one-time revenues for recurring expenditures.
Fannin said Gov. Bobby Jindal's proposed budget for the 2008-09 fiscal year called for using non-recurring revenues for some $440 million in recurring expenses.
"We in the appropriations committee took out that $440 million that were recurring dollars, so we are not funding the needs of this state with one-time dollars," Fannin said.
Walsworth added, "For the first time in the history of the state, we used no one-time monies for recurring expenditures. After all the things that's been said, that's most important."
Several lawmakers said Wednesday they were unhappy with Jindal's decision to veto millions in funding for various projects legislators approved through additions to House Bill 1. HB 1 is the legislation that outlines the state's expenditures for a given fiscal year.
There has been talk that the Legislature might meet to override Jindal's vetoes, but Sen. Robert Kostelka does not believe that will happen.
"There's not going to be a veto session," Kostelka said. "Some of them might want it, but if my calculations are correct, we're not going to have a veto session."
Yes, there are cuts we disagree with, but we're not going to burden the state and come back with a veto session," he said.