Preliminary numbers for Idaho's tax revenues show the state's collections were $15 million below expectations for February. Sen. Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, said the numbers are a bit worrying. "That's concerning that that much overall is down for February," he said. If the numbers hold, Idaho would be down $41 million for the current fiscal year. Legislative budget writers, including Cameron, set a lower revenue target for the current budget, which ends June 30. The $41 million shortfall takes up most of the $69 million in leeway in that budget.
Gov. Butch Otter, House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Senate President Pro Tem Bob Geddes, R-Soda Springs, confirmed the shortfall in a news release Friday. "We all hope that the economy turns around," the release said. "However, the recovery is showing signs of being a slow climb. It is far better to restore budgets with unexpected revenue than to cut them again because we overestimated."
Idaho chief economist Mike Ferguson revised the state's tax projections downward in December. Tax collections have been short by at least $12 million in each of the three months since Ferguson's revised forecast. He told IdahoReporter.com that looking at raw tax numbers without analysis would be misreading the information. He will have final numbers on February tax collections available at the end of March. Ferguson also said Idaho could see an "April Surprise," with unexpectedly high or low tax numbers that could help or hinder the state budget's balancing act.
April is the busiest month for tax collections due to the April 15 deadline for income tax filings. February is a lighter month for state tax revenues than December or January, which include the holiday shopping season and some end-of-year income tax filings.
Cameron said it's unlikely that lawmakers will reopen the current budget, but it remains a possibility. He said the governor could also reconvene a special session this summer or fall to fix the budget if state revenue continues to lag behind expectations. Idaho lawmakers are expecting to finish their session in late March or early-to-mid April, and wouldn't return to Boise until 2011.
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