$719 million deficit plausible in Pa., independent agency says

    The department created to give politically unfettered economic analysis in Pennsylvania isn’t even running at full staff capacity yet.

    The Independent Fiscal Office, however, has been invited to testify at the first round of state budget hearings.

    State lawmakers are underwhelmed — and a little confused — at what to expect from the nascent agency.

    Question after question has been posed. One of the most insistent: “How accurate is the administration’s deficit prediction?”

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    Matthew Knittel, IFO director, says it’s plausible but perhaps a bit pessimistic.

    Gov. Tom Corbett’s Revenue Department and Budget Office are predicting a $719 million deficit by the end of the fiscal year this summer.

    Matthew Knittel, IFO director, says it’s plausible but it doesn’t consider recent improvements in the labor market and better consumer confidence.

    “Based on very recent economic releases, we do think the economic forecast used to produce the revenue projections is a bit pessimistic,” he said. “We think once Global Insight is able to incorporate these very recent releases, the outlook will improve slightly. “

    Global Insight is the economic analysis company used by both the IFO and the Corbett administration.

    Sen. Pat Vance, R-Cumberland, had a series of specific questions about sales taxes.

    “Haven’t had a chance to look,” Knittel answered each time.

    Last question, promised Vance. “Where are we on lottery funds?”

    “It looks like it’s fairly flat moving forward, so we haven’t had a chance to look at it in depth, but we will look at that moving forward,” Knittel replied.

    “We won’t be this easy next year,” Vance vowed.

    “What should we expect from you?” lawmakers finally said.

    “If it’s a revenue estimate you want, the IFO is delivering a report in May,” Knittel replied.

    He said the agency will also take special requests to study certain policies.

    Global Insight is the economic analysis company used by both the I-F-O and the Corbett administration.

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