Lawmakers Get Uncertain Revenue Report

Nevada's Economic Forum came up with a $6.83 billion revenue estimate Tuesday from state taxes in the coming two fiscal years - a figure that's a record but still may require the governor and lawmakers to make more cuts in a proposed state budget.

Gov. Jim Gibbons already has called for about $112 million in spending reductions in the plan. The forum's revenue estimate - which by law must be followed in finalizing the budget - could mean another $75 million in cuts.

"It's not like we're declining in revenue," state Budget Director Andrew Clinger said following the forum meeting. "But we're not growing as fast."

Clinger said the forum has projected all revenues to the state will grow about 4 percent next fiscal year and 6.8 percent in the following year. While that's not as high as some had hoped for, he added that many other states would like to see that sort of revenue growth.

While the forum's estimate indicates a need for more reductions, that could change in the next few days as the state Taxation Department completes an analysis of money the state has to give to schools to offset the schools' shortfalls in sales and property taxes.

Clinger said it's possible that the tax projections for the schools will improve, and if they do the state won't have to give them as much money. That would lower the $75 million now seen as the amount of additional budget cuts that will have to be made in the state budget.

With the projections in hand, Assembly and Senate budget committees hope to quickly start resolving their differences over the spending plan. The 2007 Legislature adjourns on June 4.

"Over the years you get a feel for what's going to transpire, and the forum confirmed it for me," Assembly Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, said. "It's very bleak out there."

"The sad part of it all is that we won't be able to do the things we need to do to help the people who deserve the services."

The Economic Forum, chaired by Deborah Pierce, based its revenue
estimates on reports from economists and budget experts for Gibbons' budget office, the Legislature, various state agencies and an outside economist.

The agencies included the state Budget Office, Legislative Counsel Bureau, Gaming Control Board and state Taxation Department. Also included was a report from Global Insight, a private forecasting company.

A breakdown of the revenues reviewed by the forum show that casino-related percentage fees, one of the biggest revenue sources,
are expected to increase by 5 percent next year and 7.7 percent the
following year, generating a total of more than $1.8 billion.

Sales taxes, the biggest single revenue source, are expected to go up 5.5 percent next year and 7 percent the year after. They'd generate a total of just over $2.2 billion.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)