As Idaho revenues fall short, hopes for another big budget surplus dwindle

The days of record-breaking state budget surpluses appear to be over in Idaho, at least for the time being.

With the state approaching the end of its fiscal year on June 30, state revenues came in below projections in April, the most recent figures publicly available. For the month of April, revenue came in $60.3 million below projections, missing the mark by 7.2%, according to the Idaho General Fund Revenue Report published May 22.

Looking ahead, the May revenue numbers aren’t looking strong either, Lori Wolff, the new administrator for the Idaho Division of Financial Management, said Thursday during a meeting of the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise.

Wolff succeeds Alex Adams, the former administrator of the Idaho Division of Financial Management, who was recently appointed director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

The first official day for Wolff and Adams in their new roles is Wednesday, Wolff told legislators.

But as Wolff was transitioning to the new role, one of the first briefings she received was about revenues missing their marks with the state coming to the end of its fiscal year.

“It was probably a day or two after I was asked about doing this role that they told me, ‘Well, we’re going to miss (our projections) in April, and May is probably not going to be great either,’ ‘’ Wolff said during Tuesday’s meeting. “So a little panic set in, but I think that would be something that we will start to prepare for and talk about … seeing our revenues maybe a little bit of a miss the last two months and probably none, if any, surplus for this year.”

Rep. Josh Tanner, R-Eagle, also pointed out revenues are down 10.5% year-to-date, compared to actual revenue collections from the same time period in the previous fiscal year.

If Idaho ends the fiscal year without a surplus, it will represent a turnaround compared to the last few years. In 2021, the state ended its fiscal year with a budget surplus of nearly $900 million, a record at the time, the Idaho Capital Sun previously reported. Just one year later, the state smashed that record by closing out the 2022 fiscal year with a state budget surplus of about $2 billion, setting a new record in the process.

Although revenues missed state projections for April, it is not surprising that the state is not building toward another record surplus. Buoyed by previous budget surpluses, the Idaho Legislature passed a series of income tax cuts and rebates, and directed some of the state’s sales tax collections into education funding authorized by the passage of House Bill 1 during the 2022 special session. Each of those measures reduced the amount of revenue coming into the state.

If there is no state budget surplus this year, one result could be less new money available to go toward reducing property taxes. House Bill 292, passed into law in the 2023 legislative session, is written so that the first $50 million of any excess cash balance at the end of the fiscal year would be transferred to the homeowners’ property tax relief account.

Although the Idaho Legislature is not in session, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, or JFAC, is conducting three days of budget meetings this week as the committee looks to take a closer look at each element of the state budget. JFAC is a powerful legislative committee that sets each element of the budget.

JFAC is not able to vote on or amend budgets without the Idaho Legislature in session. But committee members are spending 2.5 days in meetings at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise and College of Western Idaho in Nampa, drilling down into budgets and any developments since the Idaho Legislature adjourned for the year in April.

JFAC’S spring tour continues at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the Idaho State Capitol. At 11:30 a.m.,committee members will travel to College of Western Idaho for lunch and meetings at the Canyon County Center and the Micron Education Center. The portions of the meetings taking place at the Idaho State Capitol are streamed live for free via the Idaho in Session service.

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Christina Lords for questions: [email protected]. Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.

Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun

Clark Corbin, Idaho Capital Sun

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News.

Get EdNews in your inbox

Weekly round up every Friday