BOISE – Because Idaho budgets based on forecasts and estimates of how much tax revenue will come in, there’s always some anticipation about how revenues fare in April, the biggest revenue month of the year. Gov. Butch Otter persuaded lawmakers, at the end of this year’s legislative session, to pass a bill to put any unexpected surplus at year’s end into the state’s rainy-day fund, and while lawmakers obliged, they said they doubted any such surplus would materialize.
But it has. The April numbers are in, and Idaho’s general fund tax revenue that month came in 13.2 percent ahead of forecasts, with collections surging $56.4 million above the expected level. That was the largest margin by far of any month this fiscal year.
That puts the state $79.05 million ahead for the fiscal year, for an overall year-to-date surplus over forecasts of 3.5 percent, according to the state Division of Financial Management.
April marked the second month of this fiscal year in which all revenue categories beat their respective targets, with individual income tax coming in the strongest, at $35 million over the forecast. Corporate income taxes were $14.4 million ahead of forecasts for the month while sales taxes were closest to projections, at $3.5 million over.
For the fiscal year to date, Idaho has collected $2.32 billion in general fund tax revenues, well above both the $2.24 billion forecast and last year’s $2.17 billion.
The Legislative Budget Office estimates if the final two months of the fiscal year meet forecasts, at year’s end an extra $58.7 million will be transferred to the Budget Stabilization Fund, in addition to the required transfer of $27.4 million based on the year’s revenue growth. That totals to $86.1 million going into savings.
Deadline looms for foreclosure aid
Time is running out for Idahoans displaced by foreclosure to apply for assistance. Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho Executive Director Christina Zamora are urging eligible Idahoans to apply before a June 30 deadline.
Wasden said Idaho’s legal settlement last year with the five largest mortgage servicers covered a grant to CAPAI to assist Idahoans with expenses like moving costs, first and last month’s rent, security deposits and more to move from a foreclosed home into safe and affordable housing. “I encourage eligible Idahoans to contact CAPAI immediately to take advantage of this limited opportunity,” Wasden said.
Said Zamora, “We still have nearly $94,000 available to assist Idahoans who are in transition due to foreclosure, but that funding expires on June 30.”
For more information, call CAPAI at (208) 375-7382, ext. 14, or go to www.idahocommunityaction.org.>
Otter grants pardons
Otter has pardoned two first-time offenders who were convicted of selling drugs to undercover officers, years after they served their time, paid all restitution and fines, met and exceeded the terms of their parole and lived for years in society as employed, productive citizens. They are the only pardons Otter has signed since he first was elected governor in 2006.
“I do not condone the sale or manufacture of illegal drugs,” Otter wrote in his orders approving the pardons of each of the two men, Eric Robert Hinckley, 37, and Robert Frank Thornton, 57. “Notwithstanding these concerns, there are several mitigating factors that weigh in favor of clemency.”
Hinckley was convicted of delivery of a controlled substance in 2002 in Bonneville County, for selling methamphetamine. Since completing his sentence and his parole, he’s obtained a college degree, married and held the same job for nine years. Thornton was convicted of two counts of delivery of a controlled substance, cocaine, in an undercover police operation in Ada County in 1992. Like Hinckley, he pleaded guilty and completed his sentence and parole. Since then, he’s been a law-abiding citizen for 17 years and is employed as a construction supervisor. Both men are married with children and own homes.
“This is the way it’s supposed to work,” Otter said in a statement. “We send people to prison to protect the public, for punishment and as a deterrent. But we also send them to prison to be rehabilitated and, we hope, to be redeemed as citizens, neighbors, fathers, husbands and taxpayers. Too often it doesn’t work out that way. But for Robert Thornton and Eric Hinckley, it did. I’m proud of them. I’m confident they’ll stay on track.”