State budget surplus continues to grow

Gov. Brad Little reverts Idaho to modified Stage 3
Posted at 4:05 PM, Nov 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-11 18:05:53-05

This article was originally published by Clark Corbin in Idaho Ed News.

State revenues beat their projections again for the month of October, adding to the potentially record-setting budget surplus that is amassing in state coffers.

The surplus is now estimated to reach $587 million at the end of the budget year in June 2021, the Legislative Services Office reported in the General Fund Budget Monitor released Friday.

For October, state revenues beat projections by $20.8 million.

Revenues are up for the year because the individual income tax, corporate income tax and sales tax collections are all beating state projections from the Division of Financial Management.

All of this is playing out as state agencies, including public schools, are subject to5 percent budget holdbacks that Gov. Brad Little and the Board of Examiners approved in anticipation of a decrease in revenue related to the pandemic.

Several education groups, including the Idaho Education Association, have called on Little to reverse the holdbacks, which have frozen teacher pay at last year’s levels.

Little did authorize backfilling the $99 million in public school budget holdbacks with $99 million in federal CARES Act stimulus money.

Meanwhile, several other state agencies have submitted requests to revise their budgets and give money back, the Legislative Services Office said.

Those requests are factored into the $587 million projected surplus.

Little has declined to return the holdbacks thus far, saying he wants to get deeper into the budget year that began July 1 to make sure the state can get through the pandemic.

Last month, Little said he was optimistic there would be enough of a surplus at the end of the budget year on June 30 to provide tax relief and additional investments in education, transportation and water projects.

“We will continue to track revenue and be conservative until we see what happens in the fall and winter months,” Little said Oct. 9.