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GOP lawmakers question preliminary budget forecast

Some Republican lawmakers think the preliminary budget forecast for the 2015-2017 biennium is too optimistic.

"If you compared the new forecast with the original Legislative forecast, the new forecast for '15-'17 will provide about $579 million more for appropriation than was available for the 2013 Legislative Assembly," state budget director Pam Sharp told the Legislature's Budget Section.

Sharp says the forecast is based on oil at $90 per barrel. And she says it’s also based on 4 percent growth in sales and income taxes.But House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) says that – plus the forecasts for other tax collections – may need to be re-thought and adjusted downward.

"As time goes on, we are going to catch up with what has taken place," said Carlson. "Those numbers are somewhat aggressive. And it creates a tremendous feeding frenzy around this place."

Sharp says the current biennium oil prices average about $90 a barrel. And she says Moody’s Analytics – the state’s budget consultant – predicts prices reaching $100 a barrel. Sharp also says the budget assumes oil production rising to 1.4 million barrels a day by 2017. The state is already pumping more than 1.1 million barrels a day.

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