A new revenue forecast from the Idaho Division of Financial Management eliminated most of the cushion lawmakers built into the fiscal 2020 budget earlier this year.

The forecast, released Friday, estimates the state will collect $3.928 billion in general fund revenues during the fiscal year, which began July 1. While that’s still 5.2 percent ahead of last year’s collections, it’s $96 million, or 2.4 percent, below the projection on which the 2020 budget was based.

Combined with a $20 million shortfall in the beginning balance and other miscellaneous changes, the fiscal 2020 ending balance is now estimated at $51.1 million — a $122.7 million decrease, or 70 percent, from the $173.8 million balance lawmakers had projected.

Federal and state tax changes in 2017 and ’18 accounted for the entire reduction in the revised forecast. The changes wreaked havoc with last year’s monthly revenue projections. Based on those results, the Division of Financial Management lowered its estimate for fiscal 2020 individual income tax receipts by $174.5 million, to $1.78 billion.

In presenting his fiscal recommendations to the Legislature earlier this year, Gov. Brad Little left a substantial cushion in the 2020 budget specifically because of uncertainty over the post-tax change revenue collections. At the time, he said he “wouldn’t spend money that’s not in the bank.”

Lawmakers went along with Little’s proposal — and the latest DFM projection now suggests that money will never be in the bank.

Spence may be contacted at bspence@lmtribune.com or (208) 791-9168.

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