Wednesday, March 08, 2006


New budget: "Fool’s Gold"

Revenue estimates used in $20.3 billion spending plan too iffy, they say

Capitol news bureau

A Republican leader in the Legislature is comparing the governor’s proposed $20.3 billion budget to fool’s gold because it relies on money the state might not get.

Sen. Tom Schedler, chairman of the Senate GOP delegation, pointed out that residents of storm-affected parishes have until the end of August to file their state income taxes.

“I am tremendously concerned about the issue with them not taking into account the delay in state income tax,” Schedler said.“I question, No. 1, the numbers. I am very concerned about the potential miscalculation,” he said.

Schedler said he had hoped to see more reform in the budget proposal. For instance, the mental health system needs to be overhauled to address a patient overload, he said.

The proposal includes a $1,500 pay raise for teachers, a 5 percent salary boost for college professors and a $156 million payment to the federal government for the state’s share of the hurricane response.

It does not address the rest of the $1 billion that the state expects to owe the federal government for storm relief or the state’s financial portion of a federal tax incentive package for businesses.

There is a concern among lawmakers that the budget proposal relies on one-time money and the guesswork of a revenue-estimating panel.

A panel that sets official income estimates for state government recently predicted the state will have an additional $410 million to spend in the upcoming budget year from increased tax and gambling revenue.

The state’s financial outlook will change significantly if Congress fails to approve an additional $4.2 billion in hurricane recovery money. Blanco’s rebuilding plans hinge on receiving that money.

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