Legislators concentrate on budget

From Staff Reports

   The Tennessee General Assembly will look at the state budget now that it has reapportionment behind them. Rep. Ralph Cole stated that a state income tax proposal is unlikely for the 2002 session.
   "Options to raise state revenue that have been discussed during the interim legislative hearings on the budget are a possible sales tax increase, removal of some of the sales tax exemptions, funding the Tennessee Highway Patrol from transportation funds, or raising "sin taxes" on alcoholic beverages, beer and wine," Rep. Cole said.
   Revenue figures released Friday showed that as of December, tax collections were $156.25 million less than the budgeted estimates for all funds and $146.7 million less than the general fund estimate.
   "On the positive side, economists have forecasted a better picture for the second half of next year with growth expected to climb to the 2.5 to 3 percent range," Cole said.
   Tennessee has $178 million in its "rainy day fund." This fund holds the state's savings account, or emergency fund, in cases of extraordinary hardships or recession. The fund may come into play when lawmakers discuss the state's fiscal policy 2002.
   "I expect the General Assembly to come back to Nashville this week ready to start serious discussions on our budget. It is a very positive step to have reapportionment behind us and to have accomplished that task expeditiously and in a manner that is conducive to a good working environment," Cole said. "I am hopeful that we will continue this work and settle our budget for the benefit of all Tennesseans."