- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - A panel of state budget experts lowered Iowa revenue projections for the current fiscal year Tuesday, though there are no immediate plans to seek spending cuts.

Citing a slowdown in agricultural income, the Revenue Estimating Conference predicted the state will take in about $7.05 billion for the fiscal year that began July 1. That’s less than the $7.18 billion they estimated earlier this year.

“It’s partly cloudy. The sky is not falling,” said Department of Management director David Roederer. “We don’t have near the problems we had in the past.”

Roederer sits on the panel with Legislative Services Agency director Holly Lyons and an independent member, Mason City economist David Underwood. The group said they were concerned about a decline in farm income, due to a drop in corn and soybean prices, though they noted that the national economy was fairly stable.

Roederer stressed that these numbers are based on just the first few months of the fiscal year. He added that he does not currently anticipate the state will need to consider budget cuts due to declining revenue.

Revenue is made up of personal and corporate income taxes, sales and use taxes and other sources.

The numbers discussed at the meeting do not have any bearing on the state budget process. The panel will meet again in December to set the revenue projection that the governor must use to craft the next state budget.

For now, the panel predicts a slight revenue uptick to $7.35 billion for the next fiscal year.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Dvorsky, D-Coralville, said in a statement that he expected the revenue would allow lawmakers to “maintain our investments in expanding Iowa’s middle class during the 2016 session.”

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, stressed caution, saying in a statement that “the hard-working taxpayers of Iowa send the Legislature a finite amount of resources each year, and we must live within those means.”

The Revenue Estimating Conference was created during budget reforms in the 1990s and is designed to force the governor, Legislature and an independent economist to agree on how much the state will collect in taxes and use that as a base for a new state budget.

Not long before the panel met, a Legislature’s administrative rules committee was reviewing a proposed rule change from Gov. Terry Branstad to expand a sales tax exemption for items used by manufacturers. The move could cost the state in lost general fund revenue, though it would likely not impact the current fiscal year.

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This story has been corrected to show Dvorsky is from Coralville, not Coraville.

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