State budget officers are in wait and see mode as Washington works out the details of a federal stimulus package. With state tax revenues in a downslide, the federal money could help prop up some parts of Tennessee’s budget-once the state knows how much it will receive, and when.
The stimulus bill would only authorize spending. Once signed by the president, federal agencies will still have to settle on the exact amount due to each state or program. In some cases, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that process could drag into the next fiscal year.
State Finance Commissioner Dave Goetz hopes to have a fairly solid idea of what to expect by the end of the month. After that, he says it will probably take another couple of weeks to alter the administration’s budget proposal. At best, he says the stimulus will only postpone the 15 percent spending cuts the administration has planned.
“You still have a billion dollar loss in state revenue that will have to be made up. It gives more time to think about what types of reductions and how you would go about reaching that lower expenditure level, but I also don’t think that the economy is likely to recover enough to replace that billion dollar loss between now and two years.”
Goetz is confident the stimulus package will include help for TennCare and money to improve roads and bridges. He also points that not all help for Tennesseans will go through the state — some of the stimulus money will be benefit federal and community programs that work directly with individuals.