GOP leaders wary of rosier-than-expected revenue forecast
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Republican legislative leaders expressed caution Monday after an updated revenue forecast showed North Dakota’s treasury expects to collect about $1 billion more in state taxes over the next two-year budget cycle than what lawmakers expected just two months ago.
The forecast from state budget analysts and Moody’s Analytics predicted higher oil prices and production than what the GOP-led Legislature used as a budgetary starting point in January.
The Legislature’s budget consultancy, IHS Markit, will present its prediction on Tuesday. Lawmakers hired the Colorado-based firm in 2017 to give the Legislature a second opinion on state revenue forecasts, which have missed the mark by hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.
Republican-led appropriations committees will consider both forecasts to set the final numbers Thursday when they begin finishing their work on the state’s 2019-2021 spending plan. The Legislature has idled major spending bills until that happens.
Republican House Appropriations Chairman Jeff Delzer and his Senate counterpart, Ray Holmberg, said lawmakers will be cautious with priorities when they adopt a budgetary starting point.
“I don’t think it means we have a lot more money to spend,” Holmberg said of the revenue forecast released Monday.
GOP Gov. Doug Burgum was more optimistic, saying in a statement that the forecast was “reliable, reasonable and conservative.”
Burgum proposed a $14.3 billion budget in December, the highest proposed budget in state history. The first-term governor’s budget predicted more than $4.6 billion in oil and gas tax revenue.
Lawmakers a month later lowered the tax collections almost $600 million when adopting its budgetary starting point, which was lower than forecasts by Moody’s and HIS Markit.
The new revenue forecast released Monday estimated the revenue at $4.9 billion for the budget period.
North Dakota’s current two-year budget, including $3.8 billion federal aid, is $13.6 billion.