“What my forecast reflects is a recovering economy,” Gov. Butch Otter’s economist, Derek Santos, told lawmakers on the joint revenue committee. “Gradually speeding up – now nothing extraordinary, but growth nonetheless, and acceleration nonetheless.”
After a series of questions, Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, moved to adopt the governor’s revenue figures, and Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, seconded the motion. “I feel very comfortable with the explanations we’ve gotten from the governor’s economist, and it seems to me to be a very prudent move,” Schmidt said.
Sen. Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, then moved a figure very close to the committee’s median forecast, $2.741 billion in fiscal year 2014, 3.1 percent growth, and Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, seconded that motion. Rep. Stephen Hartgen, R-Twin Falls, called the governor’s figures “very, very aggressive.”
Sen. Branden Durst, D-Boise, disagreed. “The committee median I think is a little too bearish on Idaho’s economy,” he said. “I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies. … If we want to be optimistic and have a positive view, we’re going to have a positive outcome.”
House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, then said, “I’m going to think out loud here for a second. … It’s Jan. 10th, and we haven’t got all of the numbers in, and I appreciate the governor’s optimism, and I appreciate the sentiments that have been expressed by the makers of the original motion.” Bedke said low-balling the figure too much could foreclose discussion on a number of fronts. “If we get out in front of this and tighten the number down too much, then I think that will stymie some discussions with regard to personal property tax and its replacement, etc.,” Bedke said. “I think the longer we wait, the more information we have, and that issue and others will be framed better. … So at this time, at this date, I don’t see anything wrong with the governor’s more optimistic number,” as long as the committee recognizes that JFAC could alter it based on information that comes in later.
Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, then said, “At this point in time maybe there’s nothing wrong with being cautiously optimistic.”
Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said, “I’m not saying that’s where my number came up, but I don’t feel it’s unreasonable.” He suggested adopting the governor’s numbers, with the caveat that “on this date we find the governor’s number is reasonable to begin the fiscal year 2014 budgeting process … something to that nature.” Hill then proposed that as a motion, and Bedke seconded it.