Legislators should stick to real numbers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 17, 2004

Budget experts are meeting in Jackson this week to determine whether the state Legislature will have more money to play with in the upcoming fiscal year.

The panel of experts will decide whether to recommend raising the revenue estimate for the coming year, based on economic factors such as tax collections and unemployment patterns.

If the panel decides to raise the revenue expectations, legislators would have more money to allocate to education.

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There’s only one problem with this rosy scenario: The money isn’t actually there yet; it’s just projected. And we all know what often results when we assume something good will happen.

Despite the tough times our state &045; particularly our public education system &045; is in, we need to budget using real numbers. It would be great to think that the state will see increased revenue next year, but what happens if we don’t and schools yet again have to make major cuts mid-year?

Businesses can make budget decisions based on future revenue because they have more control over future revenue. They can decide to be more aggressive about making sales or finding new products.

The state, on the other hand, has to cope with the hand it is dealt unless it wants to find other ways to raise revenue.

We would rather see the Legislature make the right choices based on the numbers it has now.

That includes making a commitment to fund education at a decent level.

It might not be the level educators would like to see, but it needs to fall in line with the budget of a state that has seen some tough economic times.

Legislators need to make decisions based in reality rather than borrow from the future.