Thursday, March 17, 2011

Senate approves larger revenue estimate

By Jamey Dunn

Senators approved a revenue projection for the next fiscal year today that is more than the estimates of both the House and Gov. Pat Quinn.

The $34.3 billion estimate is based on numbers from the Commission of Government Forecasting and Accountability (COGFA), but removed revenue that would only come in if the General Assembly made a change on the tax code. (For more on the Senate’s estimate, see yesterday’s blog.)

Republicans voiced concerns about the revenue estimate, which is $1 billion more than the House’s estimates. Sen. Chris Lauzen, an Aurora Republican, said it is always difficult to predict what the economy, and, in turn, state revenues will do. However, he said that lawmakers should opt for a more conservative estimate. “We all need to be humble when we’re trying to predict the future,” Lauzen said. “I would have liked to have seen a lower estimate.”

Evanston Democratic Sen. Jeffrey Schoenberg accused those who spoke in opposition to COGFA’s numbers of trying to discredit a body that has historically produced accurate estimates, for the sake of political grandstanding. Schoenberg, who chairs the commission along with Hinsdale Republican Patti Bellock, added that the state trusts COGFA to handle economic projections for a variety of issues, and the commission used the expertise of respected economists to produce its analysis of revenue.

“This is what COGFA does, and they have a very good track record of being close on their projections,” said Democratic Sen. Heather Steans, who sponsored the resolution that contains the revenue estimate.

But opponents argued that increased gas prices and the recent tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan could have a negative impact on the economy that was not factored into the COGFA estimate.

“Does it make more sense to use a conservative number [in light of recent events?] And if we’re wrong, that’s great. We have more money left over,” said Sen. Dave Syverson, a Rockford Republican.

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