State revenue forecasts improve; Burgum remains wary

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Although the revised state revenue forecasts look promising, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum says the 2019-2021 budgeting strategy needs to remain conservative at best.

The North Dakota Office of Management and Budget today released revised revenue estimates for the 2017-2019 and 2019-2021 bienniums.

The estimates are used by lawmakers and state agencies to plan their operating budgets, projects and various other state expenses.

According to the revised figures, North Dakota is expected to pull in $3.2 billion in revenue during the current 2017-2019 budget cycle, or about 4 percent more than previously forecast last year.

That’s nearly $137 million more in revenue than expected.

For the 2019-2021 budget cycle, the state is forecast to bring in $3.38 billion, or nearly 5 percent more than projected last year.

That’s about $156 million more in revenue.

Despite the expected growth, Burgum says the additional revenue will help narrow but not close the gap between current state income and expenses. The state is currently spending $4.3 billion and had to borrow $800 million from its reserve to balance the general fund budget.

That was on top of roughly $1.7 billion in spending cuts from the previous two-year budget.

“While this recent revenue growth is a good sign for our economy and is on track with the estimates we have used for budget planning purposes, it does not diminish the need for a structurally balanced budget and a conservative approach to spending,” Burgum said in a statement. “This conservative yet reasonable preliminary forecast shows we still face a significant challenge as we seek to balance ongoing revenues and expenditures, fund our priorities and provide salary increases to team members next biennium.”

In April, Governor Burgum asked state agencies to create plans that reduced their budget expenses by 5 or 10 percent, depending on agency size, and another 3 percent reduction on top of that in the event future general fund revenues fall lower than expected.

Burgum will present the executive budget plan to lawmakers in December as they organize for the 66th Legislative Assembly starting in January.

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