Jani Revier, budget director for Gov. Butch Otter, told the Associated Taxpayers of Idaho today that Idaho’s state general fund revenue hit a low of $2.3 billion in the recession year of 2010, and has steadily increased since then, topping the $3.5 billion mark for the first time this year. “General fund growth is slower than personal income growth,” she reported. Since 2008, personal income in Idaho in the aggregate has grown about 45 percent, she said. The state’s general fund budget grew 25 percent.
“The largest single component of general fund receipts is individual income tax,” she said, closely followed by the sales tax. “It’s mainly driven by individual income and purchases.” State expenditures see almost half the general fund go to K-12 education and public schools; when higher education is included, education in general takes up about 63 percent of the state’s general fund spending. Health and human services take up another 22 percent. “While the dollar amounts may change, the distribution does not fluctuate very much,” she said.
While revenues have been exceeding projections, Revier said, “It’s prudent to leave something on the bottom line to make sure that our expenses are covered.” She noted that for next year, significant expenses are anticipated for the final year of the teacher career ladder; for a required major upgrade of the state controller’s computer system; and for other critical needs. “All these important items add up,” she said.
Revier said people often ask her why state spending can’t just stay flat from year to year. In the past 10 years, she said, Idaho’s population has increased by almost 200,000 people. “It’s like adding a city the size of Boise to the state,” she said. “Providing public safety, education, and mandated human services to an expanded population has a cost.”
She also noted that if Congress doesn’t reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Idaho can expect increased costs of $23 million; other decisions made in Washington, D.C. also could affect Idaho’s state budget.
“I know you all want me to come here today and tell you how much money is available for tax relief,” Revier said. “I can’t do that. ... I will urge you to consider the expenditure side of the equation when looking at the revenues.” She said, “Gov. Otter is committed to having a structurally balanced budget, meaning that ongoing needs are not funded with one-time money. ... An ending balance does not equal an ongoing revenue stream.”