The state of Idaho is swimming in an ocean of money and is about to post its second consecutive record budget surplus.

State budget analysts expect the state ended fiscal year 2022 Thursday with a surplus of about $1.3 billion, said Idaho Division Director of Financial Management Alex Adams, at the Idaho Capital Sun last week. State budget officials will likely know the exact figure around July 20, after the state closes the books and completes year-end transfers and accounting work.

Assuming projections hold, a $1.3 billion surplus in 2022 would break the record for the largest state budget surplus in Idaho history, which was set just a year ago. year when the state ended fiscal year 2021 with a then-record surplus of about $890 million.

“What’s important to think about with the $1.3 billion is that this is after all the action this year with record tax relief and record investments in transportation and public schools.” , Adams said. “Once all of this is accounted for, we still expect to end the year with a surplus of approximately $1.3 billion.”

Idaho operates on a fiscal year calendar that runs from July 1 through June 30 each year. This means that fiscal year 2023 budgets now go into effect for state departments and agencies.

The simple explanation for the record surplus is that state revenues have exceeded forecasts, Adams said.

Idaho’s spike in revenue growth over the past two years has been breathtaking.

  • For fiscal year 2020, the state reported $4 billion in revenue.
  • In fiscal year 2021, revenue topped $5 billion for the first time in state history.
  • For fiscal year 2022, the fiscal year that ended June 30, revenue is expected to top $6 billion for the first time in state history, Adams said.

Earlier this year, Gov. Brad Little and the Idaho Legislature spent the record fiscal 2021 surplus on several programs and initiatives during the 2022 legislative session, as Adams alluded to. They spent $600 million on a tax cut package that reduced personal and corporate income tax rates and provided tax refund checks to Idahoans. They’ve increased funding for public schools by more than $258 million, increased funding for teacher raises, increased funding for Little’s kindergarten through a third-grade literacy initiative, and set aside funds to transfer school employees to the state insurance plan. They have paid off public debt, invested in infrastructure projects and increased the balance of savings accounts for rainy days, such as the fiscal stabilization fund.

Although most of the decisions on what to do with the surplus will be made by the Idaho Legislative Assembly and Gov. Brad Little when the 2023 legislative session begins in January, Adams said Little was already developing priorities and the heads of state agencies were beginning to replenish finances. the budget requests for the year 2024, which are due on September 1st.

“[Gov. Little] already says it’s providing additional tax relief and additional investment in education and infrastructure,” Adams said.

Even with a record surplus on hand, Idaho officials urge restraint and careful budgeting

Even though Adams said the state budget is in great shape with another record budget surplus within reach, Adams and a veteran lawmaker serving on the budget committee urge caution. The surplus comes, they warned, as Idahoans struggle to make ends meet as they face record high gas prices, price-spiking inflation, increases in rent and property tax rates and higher interest rates approved by the federal government.

“Despite this large year-end surplus, I think we need to be very aware that families are struggling and it’s their money,” Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, said during a telephone interview.

Horman, who faces no opposition in this year’s general election, will return to Boise for her sixth legislative session in 2023. She is a veteran member of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee that sets state budgets. .

Representative Wendy Horman

R-Idaho Falls

On budgeting, Horman said she worries about how much of the budget surplus will be one-time in nature, versus how much might be ongoing. Horman also monitors various financial experts and economic forecasters who predict that another economic recession could begin within two years.

“The question is, how do you balance the needs of the state with the needs of Idaho families to keep their own dollars to use during these times of inflation?” Horman said. “I think we definitely need to limit spending at the state level and do whatever we can to reduce costs, starting with the cost of a college education and going through food and fuel and all the necessities. expenses that families incur.”

For his part, Adams believes much of the $1.3 billion surplus will be one-time in nature, as opposed to the ongoing money available year after year to support funding increases.

“He’s still driven, to a large extent, by a lot of one-time factors that I know we’ve talked about before,” Adams said. “There was a huge injection of federal funds into the economy which helped boost consumer spending. Inflation drives prices up, and with states that have a sales tax (like Idaho), this leads to increased sales tax collections.

“The big question is how much is sustainable?” said Adams.

State withholds most of McGeachin’s latest paycheck to balance budget

While the state sits on an unprecedented pile of cash, not every office in the state ended the year on such a high note.

As previously reported by The Sun, the state of Idaho withheld most of Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s final paycheck this week to ensure her office does not run a budget shortfall. McGeachin worked without paid staff, the state is delaying his payment, and suspended vendor payments for McGeachin’s office. Indeed, McGeachin was ordered by a district judge to pay the Idaho Press Club’s legal fees after a judge found that McGeachin had unlawfully withheld public documents related to her 2021 education task force, which the Idaho Press Club sued to obtain. A district judge ordered McGeachin to release the public records and pay the Idaho Press Club $28,973.84, which would result in a budget shortfall for McGeachin unless she cut expenses and the state does not intervene. the $28,973.84, but the joint finance and appropriations committee never acted on McGeachin’s request for additional funding of $29,000.

State records obtained by The Sun earlier this month show McGeachin’s take-home pay for his final fiscal 2022 paycheck was $20.20 on June 24. The state withheld $1,713.26 from its June 24 check to avoid a budget shortfall, according to an email sent June 13. to McGeachin by Chief Deputy State Comptroller Joshua Whitworth. Even though his paycheck was light last week, state officials plan to make McGeachin whole by paying the withheld portion of his paycheck on Aug. 5, when the fiscal year 2023 budget goes into effect, a writes Whitworth to McGeachin. Deferring a portion of his salary to August 5 will result in an above-normal gross salary of $3,575.02 on August 5, Whitworth wrote.

State public records and emails from Whitworth show McGeachin’s office was expected to end fiscal year 2022 Thursday with an ending balance of 72 cents. It is illegal for any state agency or official to spend money beyond the funding approved by the Idaho Legislature, which is why the state delayed McGeachin’s salary and she worked without staff. paid for months this year.

McGeachin has not responded to more than a dozen requests for comment the Sun has left by phone and email for McGeachin since April 4.

The 2023 legislative session is scheduled to begin Jan. 9 at the Idaho State Capitol in Boise.

Idaho Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a grant-supported network of news outlets and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Idaho Capital Sun maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor-in-Chief Christina Lords with any questions: [email protected] Follow Idaho Capital Sun on Facebook and Twitter.


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