Short-Term State Budget News Improves

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Legislature’s chief revenue forecaster says the state’s short-term budget picture is looking better, while the long-term outlook is still iffy.

Terry Johnson told lawmakers Wednesday that Montana’s projected general fund balance for the two-year budget ending in mid-2011 could be as high as $235.6 million. That’s well over the $17 million estimate made in January.

However, Johnson says the estimated state spending for mid-2011 to mid-2013 is still $300 million over projected revenues.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports that Johnson said recent revenues have been looking up. He says general fund tax collections since July 1 are up $23.1 million, or 14.1 percent, over the same period a year ago. But he notes that’s only a two-month time frame.