The Senate wants the state to sock away cash.
In a 28-5 vote Wednesday, lawmakers passed a bill that would force the state to build a large savings account.
Supporters say the move would create a financial cushion for years when state revenue is low.
Opponents argued the state should use its savings for education and other pressing needs.
“None of us ever want to be faced with raising taxes,” Sen. Gordon Crow, R-Hayden said. “This makes the decision very easy as far as not raising taxes.”
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, would create a “budget stabilization fund.” In any year when state revenues grow by more than 4 percent, 1 percent of the budget would automatically be transferred to the special fund. Both houses of the Legislature could vote to override the requirement.
The automatic withdrawals would end when the fund totals 5 percent of the state budget, which now would be about $75 million.
Clark said lawmakers support the proposal because it doesn’t take money from the state budget in tight financial years where revenue doesn’t grow more than 4 percent.
Sen. Gary Schroeder, R-Lewiston, voted against the bill because he said the money should go to fund education.
“I don’t think it’s very prudent of us to put money aside when apparently we don’t have the resources to invest in children,” he said.
The House passed the bill in February.