Lawmakers, Otter agree on 2014 forecast
For the first time since Idahos Great Recession began in 2008, Idaho lawmakers decided Gov. Butch Otters tax revenue forecast for the coming fiscal year isn't too optimistic.
The Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee voted 14-4 Tuesday to support Otter's estimate, which foresees 2014 revenue of $2.8 billion.
The vote reflects optimism that Idaho's economy is on the rebound.
It also leaves plenty of financial wiggle room to pay for Otter's proposal to use $20 million to fund personal property tax relief and to put $35 million into savings accounts.
The more-pessimistic lawmakers said they worried that adopting Otter's number while only a recommendation to budget writers who will be crafting the spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1 will leave them scrambling in future years.
Idaho launches state public-info website
Want to know who the top-paid state employees are?
Or how much the Department of Health and Welfare is spending?
A new transparency website will make it easier to find these and thousands of other details about state government finances.
Gov. Butch Otter and Controller Brandon Woolf announced transparent.idaho.gov on Thursday.
Otter said the site was akin to public records requests on steroids, while Woolf said the sites information would be updated nightly to provide up-to-the-day snapshots of what's happening in state government.
The site is modeled after similar state accountability projects in places like Washington and West Virginia, and is part of a transparency-in-government trend.
Idaho's project was completed for $28,000, which was within Woolfs agencys existing budget.
Idaho pension fund exceeds expectations
The state pension fund is ahead of its target through the first six months of the fiscal year.
Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho Director Don Drum told budget writers Thursday the more than $12.5 billion, 125,000-member fund is returning 7.44 percent through this month above the 7-percent estimate.
If the trend continues, Drum says PERSI will reduce its unfunded liability that now stands at $1.6 billion, a figure thats lower than in many other states whose pensions have had to make benefit changes to help balance their books.
State employees are scheduled to pay more money from their paychecks this year into the account as part of already-planned contribution hikes.
As part of that, state taxpayers share of contributions will rise by about $2 million this next year.