Lawmakers adopt revenue estimates, told to avoid ‘sugar high’

Governor’s Office says temporary boost to state’s coffers is due to federal stimulus spending

By: - November 17, 2022 6:40 pm

The Montana Capitol (Photo by Eric Seidle/ For the Daily Montanan).

Lawmakers were warned on Thursday: Don’t be tempted by the “sugar high.”

That was how a temporary bump in revenue was described by economic experts who explained to lawmakers that the numbers seen on the report were more a factor of federal stimulus than change in the state’s steady economic fortunes.

Legislators were advised Thursday not to budget in the upcoming legislative session based on the “sugar high” included in the 2023 revenue base.

The Revenue Interim Committee unanimously adopted revenue estimates after hearing presentations from both the Governor’s Office of Budget and Program Planning and the Legislative Fiscal Division on their revenue estimates for the 2025 Biennium.

Both estimated reductions in revenue from individual income tax and corporate taxes, with increases in revenue collected from property taxes, as included the Fiscal Division’s revenue estimate. The report put out by the Fiscal Division estimates the general fund will see an estimated $7.5 billion total over the next two years.

The budget office attributed the “sugar high” to federal stimulus spending and inflation, creating an artificial increase in revenue from increased wages.

The state’s budget surplus, collected during the previous two years, amounts to more than $2 billion. The governor has said his budget aims to put some of those funds to infrastructure projects as well as investments into the state hospital and prison.

The Fiscal Division reported general fund growth would take a 5 percent dip in 2023 but would see increases in the years to follow.

The Revenue Committee moved unanimously to adopt the revenue estimates that will appear in House Joint Resolution 2, which establishes the official estimate of the state’s general fund for the fiscal years in the biennium.

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.