The Economic Forum meeting is underway in Carson City, and, as expected, the numbers look pretty dismal.
The Forum's job is to receive forecasts from the Legislature's Fiscal Division and the Governor's Budget office of the major general fund revenue sources and then make their best educated guess as to what those revenues will be for the next two fiscal years.
The Legislature is then required to use this forecast as the baseline for their budget. Given that there is a constitutional requirement for a balanced budget, the final budget must either spend up to the Economic Forum amount, or if there is a desire to spend more, taxes must be raised.
Political guru Jon Ralston with the Las Vegas Sun summed up the competing numbers in an e-mail this morning. In its December meeting, the Forum predicted that Nevada's general fund would receive $5.65 billion over the next biennium. The Governor, required to build his budget based on that amount, submitted a budget of $6.2 billion (the extra amount comes from the new room tax increase that has since been signed into law).
Today, the legislative folks are estimating $5.57 billion and the Governor's people come in lower at $5.35 billion.
In other words, if you include the drop in local property and sales tax rates (some of which the state government has to make up to the school districts), we could very well be below the Governor's recommended budget by a billion dollars.
So far, the legislative money committees have added over $70 million back into the Governor's budget, making the hole that much bigger.
Stay tuned, as this meeting will be going on for quite a while.