The nonpartisan state budget office has released its latest budget forecast. Tthe Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates a deficit that is a little short of the Governor's numbers, but the overall message was this is just the beginning of tight times.
At the budget briefing session at the Capitol, Office of Fiscal Analysis Director Geary Mahar established the tone of his remarks early.
"Our intent is to inform and not to distress, but if anyone gets overwhelmed by the directionality of our numbers, I brought along the emergency contact number for the employee assistance program."
His office projects a deficit of 293 million dollars. That's about ten million dollars less than the governor's staff forecast earlier this week, but the budget analyst told legislators it is only going to get worse.
At current spending levels, the Office of Fiscal Analysis projects a 955 million dollar deficit next year, and in three years, the hole is projected to reach nearly 1.3 billion dollars.
Republican legislators convened the informational budget session where these new numbers were released. Senate Minority Leader John McKinney urged lawmakers not to wait to reel in spending.
"Our goal must be to do everything we can to balance this budget without raising taxes."
Behind the bigger deficit projections are lower expected tax collections, particularly from personal income, real estate transfers, and insurance companies. Payments from the casinos are forecast to be down by more than 62 million dollars.
These number do not take into account the latest turmoil on Wall Street. Its effects won't be known until at least November.
A handful of Democrats sat in on the budget forum, but Democratic leaders said on Wednesday they want to put off discussing service cuts until budget hearings after Election Day.