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Revenue forecast could have big effect on school funding, state budget

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INDIANAPOLIS (Dec. 17, 2014) - The state budget committee will get its first look Thursday at the revenue forecast for the state’s next budget cycle – a key indicator of the state’s economic future.

The revenue forecast helps lawmakers determine how much money they have to work with as they prepare for next year’s budget-writing session.

“It sets the discussion for the first part of the (legislative session) so yes, it will make a difference on how we prioritize things,” said House Ways and Means chair Tim Brown, R-Crawfordsville.

“There’s no question we’re going to have to make some tough decision regardless of what the forecast shows,” said Senate Appropriations chair Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. “I think 2015 is probably going to be the toughest budget that I’ve had to work on.”

And already during the current budget year, the state’s revenues have been lower than expected – with gaming revenues from Indiana casinos down more than 20 percent.

Still it’s not all bad news. Sales tax receipts have been on the rise in recent months, even as gas prices have dropped.

“We see gas prices affecting our motor vehicle account, but then on the flipside we see people spending more money and we see sales tax receipts increase,” said Brown. “When you save 10 or 20 bucks on a fill-up you know you have (more money) to go out and buy Christmas presents this year.”

But will lawmakers get everything on their wish list? And how much will they be able to increase funding for schools – a key priority for state lawmakers in the coming year.

“We’ve had a recovery which stimulates people to say it’s time for ask for things we’ve been foregoing, but at the same time our revenue performance is not so great that we can take care of everybody’s needs,” said Kenley.

The revenue forecast will be presented to the state budget committee Thursday morning.

Lawmakers go back into session January 6, and will need to complete the state budget by the spring.