Put this down on your calendar: Tuesday, March 11. That's the date the state economists will come together to come up with the official general revenue numbers that will be used to shape the 2008-09 budget.
It's not bound to be pretty. General revenue collections - which is primarily the state's 6 percent sales tax - have been coming in below the last set of estimates reached in November. Collections through the end of January are $209 million below what was forecast back in November, which is why lawmakers are poised to slash more than $500 million from the 2007-08 budget in the first 10 days of the session.
The question is how bad it will be going forward. Last fall economists slashed nearly $1.5 billion from their 2008-09 estimate, leading to state legislators to say they may need to cut anywhere between $2 billion to $3 billion to balance the budget (without diverting money from trust funds, reserve accounts or raising money from other sources like gambling or fee hikes.)