North Dakota’s Revenue Situation Is Looking Up

Trygve Olson cartoon Via InForum.com

The Office of Management and Budget has just released their most recent budget update representing the final numbers from the 2017 calendar year (see below).

The state’s two-year budget cycle, the one lawmakers addressed in their 2017 session, began on July 1 of last year. So this report now represents six months of general fund revenue numbers for the 2017-2019 biennium.

And so far so good. As you can see from this table, in December revenues exceeded the forecast lawmakers used to budget by more than 17 percent. Biennium to date revenues are running 2.2 percent above projection (though that counts transfers from some of the state’s reserve funds and $70 million from the Bank of North Dakota).

This is good news. It seemed at times over the last couple of years that we might not ever find rock bottom when it came to falling revenues, but now it seems we’re there. Falling oil and crop prices, coupled with overspending by the Republican legislative majorities during the oil boom years, put a triple whammy on the budget.

Now it seems we’re clear of that mess, and news that oil activity is ramping up again amid recovering oil prices would indicate that the state’s economic and fiscal outlook will be a lot brighter over the next couple of years.

Though lawmakers would do well avoid returning to the profligacy of the boom years. In fact, I think we can probably count on more efforts to trim the state budget in the coming 2019 legislative session.

To put these most recent numbers in perspective, consider that general fund revenues through December were down nearly $400 million from the same period in the previous biennium:

We may be at rock bottom when it comes to falling revenues, there may be signs of recovery on the horizon thanks to climbing oil prices, but the state’s fiscal picture is still very different now than it was just a couple of years ago.

Here’s the full report:

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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