The Legislature’s joint Economic Outlook & Revenue Assessment Committee has gathered in the Lincoln Auditorium this afternoon to set a revenue estimate for the coming year. That figure is key, because it provides a basis for setting the state budget that lawmakers will craft throughout this year’s legislative session.
Gov. Butch Otter is predicting 5.5 percent growth in state general fund revenue next year, though he’s proposing a spending increase of just 5.2 percent. “We think our forecast for the year is still solid,” his chief economist, Derek Santos, told the lawmakers this afternoon. “We feel comfortable in what we’re forecasting here.”
Each committee member has submitted his or her own estimate; the highest, at 6 percent growth next year, is from the joint panel’s chair, Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, while the lowest, at 3.7 percent, is from House Transportation Chairman Joe Palmer, R-Meridian. The committee’s median, at 5.2 percent growth in fiscal year 2016, is very close to the governor’s forecast of 5.5 percent. Otter’s forecast for fiscal year 2016 is $3.1276 billion. The committee median is $3.1233 billion.
Responding to questions from the committee, Santos noted that the state's forecast is based on current law, so it doesn't account for revenue that wouldn't be collected if the governor's proposed income tax cuts are enacted next year.
Legislative budget analyst Keith Bybee told the lawmakers, “The committee median was as close to the governor’s numbers as I’ve ever seen it in this committee. They’re right in line.” For fiscal year 2015, the committee median was $5.3 million above the governor’s forecast of 5.3 percent. For fiscal year 2016, the committee median was just $4.3 million below the governor’s forecast.