Tennessee may face spending cuts

Tennessee may face spending cuts

December 19th, 2013 by Andy Sher in Local Regional News

Gov. Bill Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE - Final state revenue projections approved Tuesday for the remainder of this fiscal year as well as the upcoming 2014-2015 budget will bring pressure on Gov. Haslam to make spending cuts, officials said.

The State Funding Board settled on growth estimates of between 2.85 percent and 3.25 percent for the state's general fund, which bankrolls most functions of Tennessee government in areas ranging from education to TennCare.

While that's going to bring in additional revenue of up to $323 million next year, new demands in areas ranging from the state's school funding formula to its TennCare health program for the poor are expected to swallow much of the increase.

The state is running about $126 million behind estimates so far in the current fiscal year.

"Needless to say, I would love to see larger growth numbers than we have," said state Finance Commissioner Larry Martin, who sits on the four-member funding board. "But I think these do reflect our circumstance with today and the reality of that."

Martin said "we will work diligently with those numbers and put together a budget that makes wise choices and we will have some difficult choices to make. There's no question about that. But we will work hard and be diligent."

Depending on how already lagging tax collections play out for the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends June 30, the state's general fund for next year could wind up anywhere from $10.2 billion to $10.62 billion under the adopted estimates.

Haslam had previously directed agencies to prepare for cuts of up to 5 percent but has so far ruled out some reduction plans.

Total tax growth, which includes fuel taxes, is estimated at between 2.55 percent to 2.90 percent next year. The State Funding Board's Tuesday recommendations came following testimony last week from several economists.

Contact staff writer Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550.