A panel of lawmakers agreed to Gov. Butch Otter’s Idaho tax revenue projections, but reserved the right to change its recommended target if tax revenues tumble or surge.
Gov. Butch Otter’s proposed budget expects tax revenues to grow by 4.2 percent to $2.359 billion for the current budget year and by 3 percent to $2.429 billion in the next budget year, which starts in July.
The Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee (EORAC) Thursday on a 12-3 vote agreed with those targets, but could change its recommendation after new tax revenue numbers are available in early February.
“We don’t know what might happen in the month of January,” said Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, who co-chairs of the committee. “It’s a huge tax collection month.”
Rep. Ken Roberts, R-Donnelly, said the committee should come back if the tax collections for January are out of line with the projections. “It sends a message that we’re watching revenues that are coming in December and January very, very closely.”
The EORAC’s revenue target isn’t binding, but rather a recommendation for lawmakers who write the state’s budget. Roberts said that leaders of the House and Senate will meet with the leaders of budget writing committee to set a revenue number in February, once the January tax numbers are available.
Of the three lawmakers who opposed the revenue targets, only Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, recommended a higher number. She called the 3 percent growth in the next budget year unrealistically low, saying it would have dire consequences for people who depend on state services such as Medicaid. “It is truly impossible for us to know the number that will be the right one,” she said.
Sen. Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, said that it would be safer to set the budget with a lower projection than a higher projection. “What would be more dangerous than supporting a low number would be supporting a number that doesn’t come to pass,” Geddes said.
The two other lawmakers who opposed the plan, Rep. Janice McGeachin, R-Idaho Falls, and Rep. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, each said during the meeting that they projected tax revenues to be below the governor’s forecast.
Otter’s budget chief, Wayne Hammon, said the EORAC took an appropriate course of action. “All of us in state government need to be prudent in our handling of the taxpayers’ money and careful in the accounting thereof,” he said via e-mail.