Lawmakers Catch a Break With New Revenue Numbers


New state revenue estimates show only $10 million less than the estimates made last December, a big break for Republican lawmakers as the struggle to balance out the budgets they are working on now.

GOP legislative leaders announced the new number Monday afternoon.

And considering how worried they were last week, the $10 million less in a $14 billion budget is peanuts.

House Budget Chairman Dean Sanpei told colleagues that there is $53 million LESS than estimated in the state’s General Fund than there was in December – when GOP Gov. Gary Herbert built his budget recommendations.

In the Education Fund, there is $43 million MORE, the difference being the net $10 million less.

Because the General Fund – fueled mostly by the state’s 4.75 percent sales tax – is down by $53 million, lawmakers may have to shift money between higher education budgets and other state programs.

“The sales tax (collections) are soft, as are capital gains,” said Sanpei.

Sanpei, R-Provo, also said that while it is unusual for February estimates to be lower than December, it is important to realize that the state is still doing well.

For the current budget year – which ends June 30 – the state will take in $150 million more than previously budgeted for.

And for the next fiscal year – 2016-2017 – which starts July 1, the state will have $400 million MORE than in the current budget year.

That’s excellent news.

A total of $550 million – half a billion bucks! – more to spend than a year ago.

Still, in the 2015 Legislature lawmakers had more than $780 million more to spend.

So while things are still good, with the $53 million unbalanced General Fund and the $10 million less overall, lawmakers will have to juggle some budgets over the next two weeks.

And those big lines of folks and state agencies asking for more spending in the next fiscal year will have to be frugal, even pared back.