The joint legislative committee that sets the revenue estimate for Idaho's next state budget convenes on Thursday at 1 p.m., and its task is a weighty one: Figure out what's going on in Idaho's economy, and agree on a tax revenue forecast for fiscal year 2012 that's realistic. “For the most part, we're amateurs at economic forecasting, but we're good listeners,” said Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d'Alene, co-chairman of the Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee. “We listen to presenters who are supposed to be a fair reflection of Idaho's revenue streams, the businesses that contribute to our revenue stream. … I think if you look at past performance, that the Economic Outlook Committee has done as well or better than economists that have done their own predictions on our revenue stream.”
Since 1999, the joint revenue committee's estimate has matched the governor's Division of Financial Management revenue forecast every year but the last two. In both of the last two years, the committee has set its projection lower than the governor's, and, as a sharp economic downturn hit, actual collections slipped even lower. So far this year, since the start of the 2011 fiscal year on July 1, Idaho's tax revenues have been coming in ahead of projections, and were $30.9 million ahead by the end of November. But lawmakers have been skeptical of the administration's estimate of 4.7 percent revenue growth this year.
On Thursday, the committee will hear from DFM, the Idaho Department of Labor, and representatives of paper manufacturers, Realtors, contractors and more. On Friday, the panel will meet from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with an array of public and private sector representatives and financial experts making presentations (with a break to attend the noon inauguration on the Capitol steps). The panel is set to make its decision on Jan. 13; you can see its agenda, read background information or listen live to the meeting online here.