State lawmakers have been hearing sobering news for some time about the woes of the state budget. The top budget man in the House sees no let up in the near future.

State lawmakers hope to collect $7.2 billion in general revenue in Fiscal Year 2011, if the economy picks up. Even if that number is reached, it would be $800 million short of tax revenue collected in Fiscal Year 2008.

House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) predicts a difficult budget debate this year, but he is cautioning committee members that FY2012 and FY 2013 could be worse.

“My opinion is it’s a much more risky position not to factor in 2012 and 2013, what may happen,” Icet says.

Icet does expect the economy to bounce back, but it would have to roar back to return tax collections to the high-water mark of FY2008. Even with $1.2 billion in federal funding for next fiscal year, cuts will be made. Then, the federal funding runs out.

Icet understands his message is gloomy.

“In this line of business, you can’t be the eternal optimist. You have to be more of, to me, a realist and say, ‘This is the situation,’” says Icet. “I would rather plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Icet simply doesn’t see any signs that state revenue will return to ’08 levels in the next few years. He predicts tough budget years to continue for at least three years.

The governor has proposed a budget that totals slightly under $24 billion, $2.6 billion less than the current year’s budget. The House begins the legislative budget process. The House Budget Committee will consider the governor’s recommendations, make its changes and pass the budget on to the Senate.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:15]