Montana Budget Projections Up

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – In the first seven months of Fiscal Year 2012, Montana’s General Fund revenues are $71 million more than they were for the same time the year before, a legislative fiscal analyst told a state committee on Friday.

And the General Fund is expected to have an ending fund balance of $426 million by the end of the 2013 biennium budget cycle.

But please don’t call it surplus.

Terry Johnson, the legislative fiscal analyst, told the Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee that the increases were due to stable revenue improvement, increases in individual income tax, corporation license tax and oil and gas revenue.

He said revenues for the 2013 biennium are now about $138 million more than projected.

He said he will put out a “big picture” analysis in June that would include revenues for the 2015 biennium.

Senate President Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, who is a member of the committee, said much of the $426 million was one-time money.

Johnson warned against called the $426 million “a surplus.”

“It’s an ending fund balance,” he said, adding lawmakers were not permitted by state statute to spend all the money.

Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, said lawmakers would have to work to dispel that notion of it being a surplus, adding the public would think “it’s Christmas.”