One of the more important jobs of the legislature is to approve an estimate of the state’s revenue for the next two years; then our job is to budget within that revenue estimate. Sitting on House Taxation, I was a part of two committees that took on the task of approving the revenue estimate this time around. The goal is to approve an estimate that is both realistic and conservative so that the state does not outspend what it is bringing in.
As the legislative fiscal division issues its first reports for fiscal year 2013, it looks like we did not overestimate revenues for this biennium. All told for the year, the State of Montana brought in $102.4 million more than estimated.
Whereas these figures are certainly preferable to debt or deficit, they do not come without some frustrations. This session I carried several bills to adjust the state revenue rates to provide folks in our area with jobs and relief that we could afford.
For example, personal income tax revenues for FY 2013 were a whopping $63,800,000 higher than estimated. My bill, HB 143, would have provided income taxpayers $13,000,000/year in tax relief, and would have easily fit within this picture. Unfortunately, my colleagues were less committed than me to tax relief for hardworking Montanans.
Further, corporation income tax revenues for FY 2013 were $26,800,000 higher than expected. My bill HB 523 would have cut taxes on businesses, putting MT in Top-10 friendly business tax rates. This would have been a huge incentive to attract new business and jobs to areas still plagued with high unemployment rates. This would have only cut revenues by $12,511,000.
In both cases the state of Montana could have made the estimated revenue, and more, and provided much needed relief to main-street Montanans.