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New revenue forecast to drive spending decisions for the upcoming biennium

House and Senate budget-writers have adopted a new budget forecast for the upcoming biennium.

The forecast shows an additional $90 million available for the two-year budget.

Forecasts from Moody’s Analytics and S and P Global made presentations to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee this week.

House Appropriations Committee chairman Don Vigesaa (R-Cooperstown said the new forecast will help guide spending decisions from now until session’s end. He said one of the big items that will be decided fairly quickly will be raises for state employees.

"In the first half, we instituted a "4 and 4" plan — four percent for each year of the biennium," Vigesaa said. "Now with the $90 million figure, now we can make that decision."

Vigesaa said leadership in the House and Senate will get together shortly to come to an agreement on raises.

"We'd like to get that decision done, so that we can start passing budgets out of our committees," Vigesaa said.

Vigesaa and Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Brad Bekkedahl (R-Williston) say both committees will now start looking at pairing down spending levels to meet the available revenue. Vigesaa said that happens all the time at crossover.

"There's a lot of great ideas that come forth from all of our members," Vigesaa said. "But when you get to crossover, and you see what the other chamber did, you realize we did overspend in the general fund revenues and with the Strategic Investment Improvement Fund — SIIF — which is like a 'general fund two.'"

Vigesaa said SIIF is money from oil and gas tax revenues.

"A lot of great ideas," Vigesaa said. "But you can't do them all."

Bekkedahl said right now, overall spending is at $20 billion for the upcoming biennium – and the plan is to reduce that to $18 billion.

"When you look at it, it's about 10 percent of everything that has been put before us," Bekkedahl said. "I think it's very do-able."