Politics & Government

Economists project 2.6 percent growth for Kentucky General Fund revenue

FRANKFORT — Gov. Steve Beshear and state lawmakers learned Thursday to expect about 2.6 percent growth in state General Fund revenue for each of the next two fiscal years, a gain of about $500 million over the current revenue.

An independent, non-partisan group of seven economists, known as the Consensus Forecasting Group, projected that the state General Fund, which pays for most programs, will have $9.794 billion to spend for fiscal year 2015, which begins next July 1, and $10.046 billion for 2016.

The current amount is $9.548 billion.

Beshear said this week that he will use revenue projections from the Consensus Forecasting Group as a baseline for the budget proposal he will present to lawmakers on Jan. 21.

He said the needs of the state will outweigh the money projected but that he will "reinvest" in education even if it means cuts in other state programs.

He also said he will be pushing for tax reform and expanded gambling to find new dollars.

The General Fund revenue projections Thursday were $14.1 million lower in 2015 and $17.2 million higher in 2016 than tentative projections the group had made in October.

Members of the group were unanimous in their decision to go with a slightly cautious revenue projection given the uncertainty in the overall economy and uneven collections of key taxes in recent years.

Eastern Kentucky University professor Frank O'Connor, who chairs the panel, called the projected growth "just modest, not robust."

For the Road Fund, which pays for transportation projects, the forecasting group projected $1.546 billion in fiscal year 2015, a decline of 2.3 percent, and $1.558 billion for 2016, a gain of 0.8 percent.