Higher-than-expected growth for Idaho’s general fund. So what’s next?

(Updated at 3:50 pm Friday to reflect additional General Fund sources.)

Idaho’s General Fund revenue grew by 8.6 percent in Fiscal Year 2015, leaving Idaho with a $108 million surplus that will be divvied up between budget stabilization and transportation funds.

What were the factors in that surplus? Higher-than-anticipated filings in all tax categories, resulting in about $92 million more than expected for the state. The other $16 million comes from other revenue sources, mostly money unspent by agencies that reverted back to the state’s General Fund, said Jani Revier of the Division of Financial Management. See the Division of Financial Management report, with all its glorious figures and charts, here.

That extra money is already called for, but how might these numbers affect budget and policy decisions next year?

“I think it provides an opportunity for us to look at us cutting taxes,” said House Assistant Majority Leader Brent Crane. “It’s the taxpayers’ money. We’ve got too much of it. We need to return it back to them.”

In other words, don’t be surprised if these numbers are used to argue for a decrease in corporate and individual income tax rates and/or elimination of the grocery tax next legislative session — both on the priority lists for a number of lawmakers on all parts of the political spectrum.

Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, said she has mixed feelings about the report. “We’ve been trying to fund education and bring it back to a level it should be, and we still haven’t done that yet. People were really concerned about taking money out of the general fund, even the governor, because it would be in competition with education,” she said. “In some regard, it’s good news for transportation — roads and bridges. However, I still have the feeling that that should be going to education. We’re still not at the place we should be.”

Wintrow added she had concerns about the transportation funding deal reached by the 2015 Legislature, which included a 7 percent gas tax as well as the two-year surplus eliminator, adding she would like to see the state explore public transportation options in the future.

Read the press release from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter below:

STATE OF IDAHO ENDS BUDGET YEAR $92 MILLION ABOVE PROJECTIONS

(BOISE) – Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and State Controller Brandon Woolf announced today that Idaho closed the fiscal year that ended June 30 with a surplus, collecting $92 million more than anticipated during the previous 12 months.

“We balanced the budget and we put money in our rainy day funds. This wasn’t an accident. This was accomplished as a matter of political will, grounded in common-sense fiscal restraint and guided by the principle that our state government must always live within the people’s means,” Governor Otter said.

“The tax dollars of Idaho’s citizens are accounted for in accordance with the law, and the state of Idaho closed its fiscal year with a balanced budget,” said State Controller Brandon Woolf.  “Because of the prudent decisions made by our state’s leaders, Idaho will continue to maintain an exemplary credit rating.”

The State Division of Financial Management (DFM) reported General Fund revenue of $3,056,765,517, leaving the state $92.3 million above economist’s projections for FY 2015. General Fund revenue grew by 8.6 percent, significantly higher than the 5.3 percent rate that was forecast.

As mandated by state law, half of the surplus will be transferred to the budget stabilization fund and the other half will be dedicated to transportation infrastructure improvement projects. As a result, $54.1 million of the surplus will be used for transportation which is in addition to the $95 million approved earlier this year by lawmakers. Year end totals in each of the state’s rainy day funds are as follows:

  • Budget Stabilization Fund:                                         $243.8 million
  • Public Education Stabilization Fund                          $  90.9 million
  • Higher Education Stabilization Fund                         $    3.4 million

“Idahoans can be proud that their state is heading in the right direction because the state’s executive and legislative leaders did not only what was tough, but also required laying the foundation for continued economic prosperity and ensuring our best years are still ahead of us,” said Governor Otter.

DFM’s complete Idaho General Fund Revenue Report can be found here:

http://dfm.idaho.gov/publications/eab/gfrr/gfrr2016/gfrr_jul2015.pdf.

“Our economy is on the right track because of the discipline and commitment at the statehouse,” Governor Otter said. “I have maintained that predictability and sustainability are essential to our continued economic recovery. These figures confirm that we have budgeted wisely so our tax structure remains predictable and our economic vitality remains sustainable. Our commitment to these principles allows for continued investment in schools, roads, public infrastructure and workforce development, all essential for a prosperous Idaho.”

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2 thoughts on “Higher-than-expected growth for Idaho’s general fund. So what’s next?

  1. Give the surplus to EDUCATION IN IDAHO! It seems like this is an ALL TALK NO WALK THE WALK issue and the taxpayers STILL have to fun Levies every single year especially in Idaho County. Do it right by funding education and bring the quality of kids education up the ladder. Its quite low when compared to other states. This seems like a no brainer. I’m with Rep. Melissa Wintrow on this.

  2. So just what do you think the $95 million tax increase in gas tax and registration fees will affect the budget going forward. I assure you that taking $95 million out of the hands of the public who actually spend the money and create a multiplier effect and putting it into the hands of the state government is not going to help increase GDP for the coming fiscal year. Tax and spend is not the way to grow an economy. They actually teach that in economics 101.

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