Given how inaccurate they’ve been in recent years state lawmakers have expressed skepticism atoday about the latest revenue forecast expected to be released next week.
With revenues already falling well short of previous forecasts, resulting in across the board pending cuts, the question is how further shortfalls will be handled.
The next forecast is a big part of that question, but a special session may already be inevitable.
Multiple legislative sources have told me they’re expecting Governor Jack Dalrymple to call a special session next week, and even suggested that it would be held August 1-3. They said Dalrymple has called a meeting with legislative leadership for Monday with a decision to be made sometime after that.
I reached out to Dalrymple spokesman Jeff Zent who confirmed the meeting, though denied that any decision had been made on calling the legislature to Bismarck.
“A special session is on the table,” he told me. “They’ll talk about a lot of things on Monday.”
“Your guess is as good as mine,” House Majority Leader Al Carlson (R-Fargo) told me when I called him this afternoon and asked about the possibility of a session. “We don’t know what the governor is going to do.”
Carlson said he planned to offer alternatives to a special session including more allotments and taking more funds from the Budget Stabilization Fund, but added that ultimately the decision is up to the governor.
Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner didn’t answer when I called him this afternoon. Senator Ray Holmberg, the chairman of the interim Legislative Management Committe, declined to comment.
Under state law the Legislature can only call itself back into session as long as they have been in session for less than 80 days during the biennium. Lawmakers used the remainder of their 80 days last year when they came back into session to resolve a dispute between the House and Senate chambers over insurance for state employees.
As it stands now only the governor can return lawmakers to Bismarck to address the states budget shortfall.
Earlier this year, in what has been something of a political stunt in previous cycles, Democrats called for a special session to address budget issues. This time around, be it accident or wisdom, they appear to have gotten it right.
One lawmaker who alerted me to the Monday meeting said he wished Republicans would just admit that Democrats were right to call for a special session, suggesting that the resistance to date has been about avoiding giving Democrats a talking point.