- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Top budget officials in the Patrick administration and the Massachusetts House and Senate have agreed on a single revenue collection estimate of $24.3 billion for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The new consensus tax revenue estimate for the 2015 fiscal year is in the middle of the range of tax revenue growth estimates projected by economists and others at a December hearing at the Statehouse.

The estimate for the new fiscal year reflects growth of about 4.9 percent above a revised tax revenue estimate of $23.2 billion for the current fiscal year according to Secretary of Administration and Finance Glen Shor.

“The tax revenue estimate being announced today represents continued improvement in Massachusetts’ economic outlook,” Shor said in a written statement accompanying the release of the revenue number.

Of the $24.3 billion estimate, nearly $1.2 billion is expected to come from taxes on capital gains. About 10 percent - or $122 million - of those capital gains dollars would automatically be deposited in the state’s rainy day savings fund.

The revenue estimate is critical to the budget process.

It guarantees that the various budget proposals all have the same bottom line. The only question left for each branch and the administration is the best way to spend that money.

Patrick is expected to release his budget proposal before the end of the month, followed by the House and Senate.

While the revenue estimate is $24.3 billion, the actual amount of money available to be spent in the budget is lower - about $20.8 billion.

That’s because of the transfer of money to big ticket off-budget areas - like $811 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, $771 million for Massachusetts School Building Authority and nearly $1.8 billion for scheduled pension contributions for the fiscal year.

Shor said he’s setting a more aggressive pension payment plan that will fully fund the state’s pensions by 2036 instead of the 2040 timetable currently required by law.

The state’s revenue outlook has been improving.

As of the end of December, revenues for the state are $281 million above estimates for the 2014 fiscal year.

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