The state of Idaho came out ahead of expectations this fiscal year, collecting more tax revenue than expected. However, Gov. Butch Otter announced on Tuesday that the news did not warrant big changes in the state's budgeting policy.
"I'm grateful for the revenue growth. But I still think that we're a long way from out of the woods," Otter said.
The state collected $2.44 billion in sales, income and corporate tax in fiscal year 2011, $85.3 million more than the Department of Financial Management's January projection and almost 8 percent above 2010.
Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum and a member of the Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, said the unanticipated revenue was a good sign for the economy, but that she didn't agree with the original projection.
"I thought they were deliberately low-balling it" in order to enable further spending cuts, she said.
Otter stated in a Tuesday press release that the state would continue its fiscally conservative policies while working to boost the state's economy.
"[Revenue] is still about half a billion dollars less than we had in my first year as governor," he said. "We're going to keep working hard to grow our economy and along with it, our revenues."
Jaquet said she had a brighter view of what the numbers meant for the state's economy than Otter had expressed.
"The governor's saying 'oh no, oh no,' but I think he's wrong," she said. "It's never going to be like it was, but we are going to have a gradual growth and we're going to have to go back and examine the cuts we've made."
The 2011 unanticipated revenues will be allocated to Idaho schools and community colleges. The Blaine County School District will receive $617,156 in additional funding, more than any other school in legislative District 25.
Gooding can expect to receive a little more than $260,000 while Camas will gain more than $50,000. Dietrich and Richfield will receive $67,031 and $64,502, respectively.
Statewide, public schools will gain $59.9 million in funding while community colleges will receive $7.9 million.
Otter said the remaining $17.9 million would be used for the next step in a phased increase of the grocery tax credit for those who file state income tax returns.
"That's one of the promises we made long ago, and we've tried desperately to keep it," Otter said.
Katherine Wutz: firstname.lastname@example.org