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When a surplus isn’t a surplus…

Gov. Butch Otter's budget director, Wayne Hammon, has a presentation about the state's fiscal picture that he's now sent to every state lawmaker and state agency director, and it may seem counterintuitive: Though Idaho's state tax revenues are now running $66.1 million ahead of forecast for the fiscal year, Hammon says, "The bottom line is that although the state has more revenue than it anticipated, most of that money has already been spent." A majority of whatever year-end surplus materializes must go to maintenance-of-effort requirements for education and related programs that were attached to federal stimulus funds Idaho already accepted. By his estimates, the real state surplus at this point is just $6.6 million. Then, he points to pressing needs ahead, drained reserves and falling federal funding.

"Despite this year's revenue coming in ahead of the forecast, there is no budget surplus," Hammon writes in the presentation; you can see the full document here. "All of us in state government need to prepare now for an additional round of budget cuts – this time in federal funds that will not be replaced with state resources. Our first priorities for any new revenue must be education and restoring our rainy day accounts."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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