Economists forecast substantial TN tax revenue growth

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Experts are predicting a large budget surplus in Tennessee in the current year, and more revenue growth in the next.

In presentations made to the State Funding Board on Friday, Robert Currey of the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee had the most optimistic surplus projection of $422 million for the budget year ending June 30.

Bill Fox of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Tennessee put that number at $370 million, while state Revenue Commissioner Richard Roberts projected a $340 million surplus.

Roberts projected $525 million in new revenue for the budget year starting July 1. That compares with Currey’s estimate of $428 million and Fox’s $376 million.

The State Funding Board is made up of the state comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state and a representative of the governor’s office. The panel is scheduled to announce its own projections Thursday.

Comptroller Justin Wilson said he was encouraged by the projections, but added that he’s “not as optimistic as some of the presenters were.

“Our goal is to try to hit the number,” he said. “It’s just as bad to overestimate as it is to underestimate it.”

Secretary of State Tre Hargett said he wants to take a cautious approach.

“We’d rather be pleasantly surprised this time next year or during the legislative session than having the shock value of having overestimated revenues,” he said.

Lawmakers have voiced several ideas about how to spend the expected surplus and new revenue, including proposals to use it for road projects or phasing out the state’s tax on income from stocks and bonds.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has warned that increasing costs in education and health care will eat up most of that money.