The Legislature’s Joint Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee has convened to set the revenue estimate it will recommend. If adopted by the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, that figure would form the basis for next year’s state budget. After two days of hearings on the state’s economic outlook before the legislative session started, each member of the joint committee has set his or her estimate of state tax revenue for this year, next year, and the year after. The median from the committee members’ estimates came in at 3.1 percent growth next year, to $2.7410 billion, in fiscal year 2014. That compares to the 5.3 percent growth, to $2.7991 billion, Gov. Butch Otter’s economists have forecast.
Otter’s proposed budget sets spending for next year’s budget at a 3.1 percent growth level , but not counted into that are the $20 million he wants to use to offset a move to eliminate the personal property tax on business equipment, or the $35 million he wants to pump into the state’s main rainy-day fund. If lawmakers opted to go with the committee’s median figure, they’d potentially set themselves up for a situation where the governor’s budget could be funded but not those two items. Of course, lawmakers can depart from the governor’s budget plan when they draw up their own, but it’s something of a starting point.
In the committee members' estimates, Rep. Marc Gibbs, R-Grace, was lowest, predicting 2 percent growth next year to $2.6800 billion; Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, was highest at 4.7 percent growth in fiscal year 2014, to $2.8124 billion.