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MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

March revenue numbers exceed expectations of House leadership

April 07, 2004
By: Sara Bondioli
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Despite Revenue Department reports that revenue collections continue to grow, Gov. Bob Holden's administration said he will continue to withhold $130 million from education.

Numbers released by the Revenue Department Wednesday show state general revenue collections are up 7.5 percent higher than last fiscal year. The state's current fiscal year began July 1, 2003.

House Budget Committee Chair Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, said revenue collections are exceeding his expectations. House Republicans were criticized for writing bad checks and appropriating money that didn't exist last year, he said.

"We didn't write bad checks. Unfortunately, the governor put a stop payment on the check to education," he said.

The governor continues to withhold $118 million from elementary and secondary education and $12 million from higher education.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said releasing the withholdings is the governor's first priority, but it is critical to review the revenue numbers after April 15 -- the tax deadline.

House Republican leadership has said the governor didn't need to withhold the funds in the first place.

The administration will meet with the legislature after April 15 to take another look at the revenue estimate for the coming budget year that they agreed to in January.

Luebbering has called the estimate for next budget year "very optimistic."

"It's a little bit less very optimistic now," she said. "It's an optimistic number but it's a little bit more realistic given the news about this year's revenue."

In the meantime, the House has passed a budget based on a revenue estimate higher than that agreed to by the administration in January.

Luebbering said the House, Senate and governor's office will probably not meet until the end of the month to review the April 15 numbers. Once the tax deadline passes, the Revenue Department will need almost a week to gather the information, she said. Then, economists for the House, Senate and governor's office will need time to review the numbers before the three groups meet to make revisions.

Bearden said he expects revenue numbers through April 15 to confirm the agreed-upon estimate from January or lead to an increase in the estimate, which would mean an increase in money the legislature can appropriate for the coming budget year.

Luebbering said the estimate could go up or down -- or may not change at all.

"Maybe we'll just have a little bit more comfort with it at that point in time," she said.

The revised revenue numbers can be used by the House and Senate conference committee that will meet to reconcile differences between the two groups' budget bills.

Excluding one-time federal funds, revenue increased 5.2 percent over the previous year.