Topeka — The people who tell the state how much money it should have to spend don't see much significant change coming in the Kansas economy.
The Consensus Estimating Group met for three hours Friday to draft new estimates for state revenue collections. University economists, legislative researchers, Department of Revenue officials and members of Gov. Bill Graves' budget staff belong to the group.
Duane Goossen, the governor's budget director, summed up the new numbers in a single word: "Stability."
"This forecast represents a very stable, moderately growing economic base," Goossen told reporters during a news conference. "It's become slightly more positive."
The group revised estimates for the amount of money the state expects to collect in its general fund for its 2001 fiscal year, which began July 1.
The new figure, just under $4.5 billion, is $64.8 million higher than the previous estimate.
The general fund is the largest source of money for Kansas government programs and where the state deposits most of its tax revenues.
The estimating group also made its first estimate for the state's 2002 fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2001. Graves and his staff are drafting the governor's proposed budget for fiscal 2002 for the Legislature to consider after it convenes in January.
The group projected that general fund revenues in fiscal 2002 will increase by 2.4 percent, or about $110 million.
The figure would be higher 4.2 percent were it not for a $60 million decrease in tobacco revenues flowing into the general fund. The money comes from Kansas' share of a national settlement of states' lawsuits against tobacco companies.
"National and state indicators both are suggesting a very solid economy the next couple of years," said Ben Barrett, director of the Legislative Research Department.
Goossen, other state officials and legislators had expected the fiscal 2002 budget to be tight.
Decisions in 1999 to establish a children's trust fund, divert more money to highway projects and increase spending on the state's higher education system are expected to cost more than $170 million in fiscal 2002.
"This helps get us out of the hole and gets us to a place where we can consider a flat budget," Goossen said of the new estimates.