Legislature launches its own revenue forecasting protocol

Jul 28, 2017

Legislative Revenue Advisory Committee meets 7/27/17.
Credit Dave Thompson / Prairie Public

"We are going to be starting something new in North Dakota."

That's how Sen. Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) opened the first meeting of the Legislative Revenue Advisory Committee. Holmberg chairs it.

"The Legislature is going to get involved much earlier than we have ever before in the past regarding budget projections," Holmberg told the Committee.

Normally, the executive branch would issue an “official” forecast. And the Legislature would make adjustments to the assumptions as the session went on. Holmberg said this is a significant change in that procedure.

"At the end of the day, it is the Legislature that blesses, or agrees to, what the budget numbers are going to be," Holmberg said. "So the question then is -- should we not be involved from the beginning?"

This could mean there would be two forecasts – the Legislature’s and the Executive Branch’s. State budget director Pam Sharp told the committee she hopes that in the end, there would be one comprehensive forecast that both branches can rely on.

Sharp also had good news for the Committee regarding the latest tax collection numbers.

"We had a pretty good month for the Month of June," Sharp told the Committee. "We were $28 million ahead of forecast."

Sharp said that's compared to the latest revenue forecast, issued in March.

"Most of that was in the sales tax area," Sharp said. "There, we were $19 million ahead of forecast."

Sharp said that puts revenue collections for the biennium at $27 million ahead of the revised March revenue forecast.

"The good news about that is the $27 million actually goes to our ending balance," Sharp said. "That will give us another $27 million of cushion going into the next biennium."

Sharp said these are preliminary numbers.

Also, Shapr told the committee some agencies have not yet reported the carry-over money they’ll be turning back into the state’s general fund. But she did tell the Committee there was an unanticipated turn back from the state’s Department of Human Services.

The committee was originally part of a budget bill. Gov. Doug Burgum used his line-item veto power on it. But Holmberg said the Legislature had the power to create the committee despite the veto.