In recent years, Tennesview has amassed some of its largest budget surpluses ever while at times facing the prospect of equal or even bigger deficits. Since the budacquire need to balance, situations prefer these challenge policymakers with considerable taxes and spfinishing decisions. Yet also with the ideal revenue and also spfinishing forecasts, underlying patterns and unsupposed alters in the economy can limit their options.

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This brief explains how surplsupplies and also deficits occur, the duty of revenue projections and rainy day funds, and the trade-offs Tennessee’s governor and also General Assembly need to weigh once crafting the budacquire. For even more on these topics, check out Sycamore’s Tennessee State Budget Primer.

Key Takeaways

Excess earnings take place as either mid-year budget adjustments or end-of-year surploffers. They have the right to fund one-time investments in present or future fiscal years.Deficits take place as soon as spfinishing exceeds profits. Cyclical deficits result from economic downturns while structural deficits reflect more standard discrepancies in budobtain plan.Rainy day funds carry out a cushion that helps policymakers stop or minimize the hard decisions that recessions periodically call for.Recent background argues state tax revenue projections are hard and also seldom precise. Tennessee’s conservative forecasts assist the state prevent deficits, make surplprovides more most likely, and allow for one-time investments choose rainy day savings.The main trade-off to surpluses and savings is that policymakers might have actually offered the money for recurring policy priorities, such as programs, services, or taxation relief.


A surplus occurs as soon as Tennesview has actually either built up even more or spent much less money at the finish of a fiscal year than lawdevices apshowed in the budget. The state cannot use this leftover money in subsequent years until the General Assembly decides just how to alsituate it. Figure 1 reflects just how these surplsupplies have actually varied considering that FY 2012. (1) (2) In more specific terms:

When revenue collections outpace budgeted estimates, the state accumulates a excess that it cannot yet spend. This form of excess is known as an “overarsenal.” At the finish of a fiscal year, this excess revenue goes right into the Reserve for Future Requirements till lawmachines proper it for a certain function.

Official mid-year revenue and spfinishing re-approximates in each year’s budacquire deserve to likewise yield added funds that were not anticipated once the fiscal year began, however this money is not considered “excess.” For example, the many current budobtain proposed by Gov. Lee in January tasks $539 million in added FY 2020 General Fund earnings that were not budgeted at the start of the fiscal year. Of this amount, $500 million comes from a rise in intended taxation collections. Figure 2 screens how mid-year re-estimates have differed considering that FY 2013. (1) (2)

Figure 1


Figure 2


Surpluses and also mid-year revenue re-estimates can fund one-time investments. For instance, the FY 2021 recommendation offers some of the $777 million FY 2019 excess (Figure 1) and the $539 million in FY 2020 mid-year adjustments (Figure 2) for $74 million in FY 2020 supplemental appropriations. The continuing to be $1.2 billion carries over as non-recurring revenue for FY 2021 (Figure 3) — the highest possible projected year-end balance in current background.

Many other unspent fund balances Tennessee carries from year to year are tied to certain purposes. At the finish of FY 2019, the state had actually a full balance of about $6.4 billion throughout the General, Education, and also Highmeans Funds. (1) Aside from year-end excess in the Reserve for Future Requirements, these balances have specific objectives forced either by state legislation or by strings attached to their revenue resource, such as the federal government. They are not obtainable to spfinish on various other functions. Instances encompass rainy day funds, one-time appropriations for building, road, or various other tasks that span multiple years, and fees that pay for specific programs or agencies, such as licensing boards.

Figure 3



Deficits occur when spending exceeds revenues. There are two standard forms of budacquire deficits, cyclical and structural, which differ in significant means.

Cyclical Deficits

Cyclical deficits can happen as soon as economic downturns throw revenues and spending out of balance. Even through the best year-to-year and also mid-year revenue and also spending approximates, unexpected economic problems and also underlying fads have the right to obstacle the state’s ability to balance its budobtain as constitutionally compelled.

Economic downtransforms develop higher-than-usual demand for programs and solutions while reducing the earnings that fund them. Personal income drops during recessions, which curtails individual spending and also shrinks the state’s sales tax revenue. At the same time, even more human being generally enroll in state-funded programs to aid bridge the gap. Unintended occasions choose organic disasters and also public wellness emergencies have the right to also rise demand for state assistance.

Since the budobtain need to balance, Tennessee cannot end its fiscal year via a deficit. When dealing with the prospect of a deficit, policymakers have to actively manage the budacquire mid-year by cutting spfinishing, increasing earnings, tapping rainy day funds, or some combination thereof. During the Great Recession of 2007-2009, Tenneswatch attracted down reserves, decreased recurring spending, and also froze state employee salaries. The state tapped nearly $800 million linked from the Reserve for Revenue Fluctuations and the TennCare Reserve over the course of the recession and recovery. (1)

Structural Deficits

A structural deficit arises from a basic imbalance in budobtain plan that causes spending to exceed revenues. It differs from a cyclical deficit, which stems from short-term components favor an financial downrotate. The term structural deficit can refer to two situations:

1) Current revenues cannot pay for present programs.

2) Long-term forecasts anticipate spending will certainly prosper quicker than revenue over time.

Identifying both if and why a structural deficit exists is vital however can be tough and subjective. Tennessee’s increpsychological budobtain procedure was not designed to challenge many of the broad policy questions inherent in both questions.

It have the right to be difficult to identify a structural deficit in budgets that must balance eexceptionally year. The prospering nationwide debt renders it simple to watch a structural deficit in the federal budobtain. However before, because Tennessee’s yearly profits and expenditures need to balance, determining if the state budgain has actually a structural deficit have the right to be harder and also topic to interpretation. Sycamore’s Tennesview State Spending Plan Primer lays out a few potential methods to recognize if a structural deficit exists.

Figure 4


Rainy Day Funds

Rainy day funds aid policyequipments smooth out the ups and downs of the economic cycle. Rainy day funds enable says to collection money aside when profits are solid and/or demands are relatively low. States have the right to then tap those reserves once revenues are weak and/or requirements rise.

The Reserve for Revenue Fluctuations and also the TennCare Reserve together recurrent Tennessee’s ability to respond to a downturn. The previous is particularly for unintended changes in revenue collections. The latter is a sepaprice money that holds excess dollars for TennCare. In dire situations, the legislature have the right to make the TennCare Reserve accessible to shore up both TennCare and also the bigger General Fund.

Rainy day funds are likewise essential for preserving Tennessee’s AAA credit rating. Crmodify rating agencies set a state’s rating after determining its financial responsibilities and also its capacity and also will certainly to accomplish those obligations. Large reserves that have the right to fill unexpected budacquire gaps are specifically important for states via much less political appetite to raise revenue.

The Reserve for Revenue Fluctuations balance is consisted of of a collection of one-time deposits — usually from budacquire surpluses. Surpluses, yet, do not automatically go right into the Reserve. The amount deposited each year counts on the Reserve’s target balance as stated in the yearly appropriations bill. This target balance determines the size of the deposit even if the state has a larger excess and also could “afford” to collection aside more.

Gov. Lee proposed including $50 million to the Reserve for Revenue Fluctuations in the FY 2021 budobtain, for an unified balance through the TennCare Reserve of $1.5 billion (Figure 4). This unified balance would cover around 33 days of state-funded General Fund operations at the FY 2021 recommfinished spending levels — around 21% less cushion than just before the Great Recession. (1) (2)

State Tax Projections

The accuracy of state taxes projections plays a major duty in whether surpluses and deficits occur. Conservative forecasts contribute to surplprovides. At the same time, as soon as projections are better than actual collections, policymakers might face tough decisions to make ends fulfill.

How Tenneswatch Projects Revenues

State regulation lays out the process for projecting state revenues. (3) (4) (5) Each year’s budgain is based upon an intended revenue selection from the State Funding Board, whose reference is increated by the advice of specialists. The Funding Board is composed of the governor, the commissioner of finance and administration, the comptroller, the secretary of state, and also the treasurer. The Funding Board typically gets separate revenue estimates from:

The Fiscal Rewatch Committee.The Department of Revenue.Outside economists (for example, from the University of Tennessee’s Boyd Center for Company and also Economic Research and East Tennessee State University’s Bureau of Firm and Economic Research).

The Funding Board uses the professional approximates to recommend a variety of revenue predictions for the upcoming fiscal year, as well as a revised range for the present fiscal year. The Funding Board’s range usually encompasses at least some of the experienced projections. In some years, they have recommfinished a range below that of any kind of of the expert approximates but, at least in recent background, never above (Figure 5). (1)

Finally, the governor and budgain staff usage the Funding Board’s variety to pick an official revenue estimate for the recommfinished Budget. The governor’s proposals for spending and revenue transforms are based upon this official estimate.

Figure 5


Projection Accuracy

Recent history argues that state taxes revenue projections are challenging and also hardly ever precise. (6) Based on current suffer, Tenneswatch has a tendency to overestimate its tax profits in the time of and also instantly after recessions and also underestimate them during times of economic development (Figures 5 and also 6). (1) (7)

The state reports its revenue collections eexceptionally month, which lets policyequipments and the public view just how actual earnings compare to the approximates on which the Budget Plan was based. The Sycaeven more Institute tracks the reports monthly via our Tenneswatch Tax Revenue Tracker.

The Trade-Offs

Both surplprovides and also savings come through trade-offs. Surplsupplies represent conservative budgeting that reduces the likelihood of inequalities that can face policydevices with challenging options to make ends meet. Surplsupplies additionally allow the state to make one-time investments in the rainy day money or various other non-recurring priorities. Meanwhile, the rainy day money helps smooth out the ups and also downs of the economic situation and can insulate policydevices from the difficult selections that may aincrease from those ups and downs. The trade-off, however, is that both surplprovides and also savings reexisting revenues that can have actually been offered for recurring policy priorities (e.g. spending for programs and also solutions, taxes relief).


Some underspending/reversion is assumed in the budget’s “overappropriation.” Only the revariation amounts in excess of the appropriation become part of the Reserve for Future Requirements. For even more information about the overappropriation, check out our Tennescheck out State Budget Primer.

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*This plan brief replaced one on similar topics that was publimelted on Jan. 10, 2017.