The latest report of Idaho state tax revenues shows a shortfall of more than $12 million for the second straight month. Revenues were $12.8 million under expectations for January, the most recent month available. Idaho chief economist Mike Ferguson reset the state's revenue forecasts right before the past two months' gap appeared.
In his report, Ferguson fended off criticism that his recent forecasts were too optimistic. "This top-line number makes it appear the current General Fund revenue forecast is too high, but a closer examination of the details provides a different, less distressing perspective on revenue collections so far," he wrote. Income tax collections were $12 million below expectations, and Ferguson said a drop in the number of people filing end-of-year returns in December contributed to that total. Those filings could come in during the next few months. Corporate income taxes were down $6.4 million, which Ferguson called worrisome. Sales tax receipts, on the other hand, brought in $6.5 million more than expected. That reflects a better holiday shopping season than most people assumed.
Idaho's personal income, corporate income, and sales tax cover more than 90 percent of the state's general fund budget, which goes to schools, social services, public safety, and other programs. Ferguson's revised projections show Idaho collecting $2.34 billion in tax revenues for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Lawmakers lowered that projection to $2.28 billion, which would allow for future revenue numbers to fall below expectations without altering the state budget. Tax revenues are currently $25 million below Ferguson's projections, so there is $44 million in leeway, which could be an $8.8 million shortfall for each of the remaining five months. However, April is the largest tax collection month, thanks to income tax filings coming in near April 15, so a high or low April could change the state's fiscal fortunes.