La. income forecast grows, giving lawmakers more to spend

Louisiana
Economist Stephen Barnes, left, and Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, both members of the Revenue Estimating Conference, review income projections ahead of the conference's meeting Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. The conference increased the income forecast for the current and upcoming budget years, giving lawmakers more money to spend. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

Economist Stephen Barnes, left, and Senate President Page Cortez, R-Lafayette, both members of the Revenue Estimating Conference, review income projections ahead of the conference’s meeting Tuesday, May 18, 2021, in Baton Rouge, La. The conference increased the income forecast for the current and upcoming budget years, giving lawmakers more money to spend. (AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Already flush with federal cash, Louisiana’s budget picture brightened again Tuesday, with the state’s income forecasting panel estimating $677 million in tax collections above expectations should flow into the treasury over the next 14 months.

The Revenue Estimating Conference increased the estimate for general state tax collections in the current budget year that ends June 30 by $357 million. The panel also increased the general fund forecast for the upcoming budget year that begins July 1 by $320 million.

Those dollars aren’t currently included in the budget legislation awaiting decisions in the Senate, but senators will add it in the coming days. Spending ideas for the money abound, with suggestions ranging from increased teacher pay raises and more dollars for early childhood education programs to paying down a variety of state debts.

“I don’t think there will be any shortage of suggestions for how to spend the money,” said Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne, the governor’s chief budget adviser and a member of the Revenue Estimating Conference.

The four-member conference includes Dardenne, Senate President Page Cortez, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder and independent economist Stephen Barnes, who works at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Lawmakers can’t spend more state general fund money than what is recognized by the conference.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

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