The Associated Press December 16, 2010, 5:32PM ET

Uncertainty about final revenue estimates in Tenn.

Top state officials can't get it together to come up with the revenue figures that will determine how big the next Tennessee budget will be.

State officials said Thursday that they're uncertain when final revenue projections for Tennessee will be released. Traditionally, the figures have been settled around the middle of December so the governor and lawmakers can begin drafting the next budget.

The State Funding Board, which includes the state comptroller, treasurer, secretary of state and the governor's top financial adviser, was expected to make its estimates Thursday. Instead Comptroller Justin Wilson adjourned the meeting until the secretary of state decides when the board will meet again.

Officials said two problems have been the wintry weather and a recent power outage in a state building that houses most of the secretary of state's workers, some of whom put together documents for the funding board meetings.

Despite the holdup, Finance Commissioner Mike Morrow said officials are working to reach a consensus on the figures.

"We'll get it all worked out," he said Thursday.

When the board set revenue estimates last year, its members would only say the decision was a "consensus." The estimate was set without debate at a public meeting, and board members wouldn't divulge how that agreement was reached.

A joint spokesman for the board members said at the time that the panel falls under the state's open meetings laws that require deliberations between two or more members to be held in public.

All discussions were between staffers and not the board members, who left it up to the staff to agree on the crucial budget number, according to spokesman Blake Fontenay.

State revenues have been trending up since the fiscal year began in July.

Earlier this month, Morrow said the state's November sales tax collections had positive growth for the eighth consecutive month, "pointing to what we believe to be a slowly recovering economy in Tennessee."

That same day, the funding board heard four economists' revenue projections that ranged from about 2 percent growth to a little under 4 percent for both this year and next year.

David Smith, spokesman for Republican Gov.-elect Bill Haslam, said in early November that the quarter's growth was "encouraging," but noted that it compares with a year-ago period that was poor.

General fund collections in the same quarter of last year were $88 million below expectations and they were $200 million short in the first quarter of 2008.

Smith said Haslam, who takes office on Jan. 15, is paying close attention to the state's revenue picture and is preparing to address "the host of budget challenges he will face when he takes office in January."

Despite optimistic projections by economists last year, the funding board still set conservative annual revenue estimates, which has contributed to the state's tax revenues coming in over budget this year. When asked by a reporter at the last funding board meeting if that would be the case this year, Wilson said the board is simply trying to "hit the right number."

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Erik Schelzig contributed to this report.


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