Economic Forum boosts revenue projections -- just a tiny percentage

The Economic Forum voted Thursday to add a total of $10 million to its December projections for state tax revenues the next two years.

In addition, they projected the state will get nearly $6 million more to finish out this fiscal year.

But in the grand scheme of things, it is a less than a 1/2 percent increase, and does almost nothing to make up what Gov. Kenny Guinn says is a $704 million shortfall for the coming two years.

The forum is a five-member panel appointed by the governor and legislative leaders to independently review and project revenues for the state. The governor and lawmakers are required to use those projections in building the state budget.

"The Economic Forum's projected revenue numbers simply reinforce my belief that Nevada needs to pass a broad-based business tax to address the challenges that await us during this decade," said Gov. Kenny Guinn following the meeting.

Forum Chairman Cary Fisher said the projections were a bit rosier than many expected a month or so ago.

"We were all pleasantly surprised the war didn't have a bigger impact," he said. "That gave us a little more confidence going forward."

That showed in the decision to project $4.3 million more in gaming tax revenues this year and $9.1 million more for the 2004-2005 budget cycle. These were accompanied by estimates the state will realize $2.2 million more from the casino entertainment tax in the final quarter of this fiscal year and nearly $8.2 million more than projected in December over the coming biennium.

They also projected slight increases in the Insurance Premium tax -- $625,000 this year and $1.38 million for the next two years.

But the forum's optimism was partially offset by concerns the rest of the economy isn't recovering as rapidly as hoped. The forum reduced the amount expected from sales taxes by $1.3 million this year and $2.8 million for the next two years.

The Business License Tax they agreed will come in $746,000 lower this year and $1.5 million less over the coming biennium. The cigarette tax they set $859,000 lower this year and $3.9 million lower for fiscal 2004 and 2005.

When all those numbers are added up, lawmakers have $5.9 million more to balance this fiscal year's budget shortfall, $10 million more in fiscal 2004 and fiscal 2005 -- a total of $15,874,000.

The total available general fund budget for the coming two years is $3.9 billion. All those numbers, however, will be meaningless if lawmakers approve changes in the state's tax structure. Bills now being considered include increases in most of the existing taxes as well as creation of new taxes including an amusement tax, business gross receipts tax and a services tax.

Lawmakers resume the task of trying to develop a tax package to fund Guinn's proposed budget -- or find ways to cut it -- today.


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