North Dakota lawmakers are building a state revenue forecast to guide their budget work in the Legislature, with two outlooks to help light their path.
The outlooks come amid a rosy financial picture for state government -- including $3 billion of cash reserves and a $718 million rainy day fund -- touted by Gov. Doug Burgum in recent weeks. Better-than-expected state tax revenues, notably oil taxes, have created the situation.
The House and Senate appropriations committees on Tuesday heard consultant S&P Global's state tax revenue forecast and a comparison to a state Office of Management and Budget outlook.
Both committees next week will adopt a revenue forecast derived from the two estimates to guide their work until March, when they'll receive a final forecast for the 2023-25 budget period.
OMB estimates more than $4.2 billion of revenue from the state's four major tax types: sales, motor vehicle, income and corporate, led by $2.24 billion of sales taxes, the largest contributor to the state's general fund, which is the main operating fund for state government.
S&P Global's baseline forecast estimates slightly more than $4 billion of general fund tax revenue, including nearly $2.17 billion of sales taxes. The two forecasts differ by about $196 million.
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"It's a pretty conservative forecast," S&P Global Industry Services and Consulting Group for Economics Executive Director Jim Diffley told the committees.
He described a tight labor market, high inflation and a looming, mild recession in 2023.
OMB Director Joe Morrissette said S&P's baseline forecast is "definitely more pessimistic than our outlook." He cited S&P's seemingly "ultraconservative" figures on 2023-25 sales taxes and the firm's outlook of a "significant decline" for corporate income taxes, which he said are "very volatile" and difficult to project. OMB collaborates with the State Tax Office in its forecast.
"I feel like our forecast is conservative, but this one (S&P) is really ultraconservative with a very pessimistic outlook for sales and corporate income tax," Morrissette told the Tribune.
Oil prices will be a notable change in the forecast to be adopted, according to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Don Vigesaa, R-Cooperstown.
S&P Global Industry Services and Consulting Group for Economics Executive Director Jim Diffley presents a forecast for state tax revenue.
Oil tax revenue has surpassed the 2021 forecast by 62%, or nearly $1.7 billion three-quarters of the way through the 2021-23 budget cycle, according to a December report from the Legislative Council. Oil prices have surged 70% above that same forecast.
"Our price of oil that we adopted last time (in 2021) was significantly lower than (what) we will probably adopt for the next two years going forward, so that's what created our large surplus, was because we had a very conservative forecast, and I think we'll be conservative going forward, too," Vigesaa said.
He noted that both committees "will have their own ideas of where we should set these limits, too."
The two forecasts are "information for us to build our own case and numbers to use with our appropriations committees and the session in general," said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Brad Bekkedahl, R-Williston.
Overall 2021-23 general fund revenues have exceeded the 2021 forecast by 23%, or over $702 million from July 2021 through November 2022, according to a recent OMB report.
Tuesday's joint hearing of the two committees included about a third of the Legislature, including the four leaders and about 40 budget writers watching the presentations from S&P Global and the Legislative Council.
Burgum has proposed an $18.4 billion two-year budget blueprint, including a $5.86 billion general fund, the state's main operating fund. That would be an overall record budget but includes federal funding and comes amid recent inflation.
The 2021-23 budget is $17.8 billion with a $5 billion general fund, including federal coronavirus aid.
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Napoleon High School senior Amber Schmitt loved playing volleyball and basketball but had to quit when she tore her ACL and meniscus in the seventh grade.
After three knee surgeries and a year and a half of physical therapy, Schmitt tried to play basketball again but hurt her knee on the first day of practice. She also tried golf but found that walking the course was too painful. While she had to give up those sports, she did get to play volleyball again, for which she feels grateful.
Counselor Cindy Weigel said instead of becoming angry or giving in to self-pity, Schmitt kept a positive attitude during her recovery and continued to be a role model for her peers.
“This unfair circumstance of taking away most of her high school sports and normal teen activity would be understandably troubling. Amber rose above this situation every single time,” Weigel said in a letter of recommendation. “Her unique ability at her young age to be resilient and show her character qualities with pride is admirable and worth recognizing.”
The daughter of Bill and Jennifer Schmitt, of Napoleon, is this week's Teen of the Week. Thirty-two high school seniors will be recognized by spring, at which time a Teen of the Year will be selected from the weekly winners to receive a $5,000 scholarship sponsored by MDU Resources Group.
Schmitt got to play in only three volleyball games her sophomore year and had her first full season as a junior. The volleyball team captain said she is proud that she got back into the sport after facing her injury and her mom’s cancer diagnosis.
“It was such a long road to get there, especially since my mom started chemo around the same time,” Schmitt said. “I just knew that I had to step up even though I was in a bad position myself. I feel like that pushed me harder to do better, try to be the best person I could and finally get back to my normal self.”
Schmitt also is involved in Acalympics, National Honor Society, and Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, where she serves as secretary and treasurer. She has been the class vice president since seventh grade and was named homecoming queen. Schmitt said she feels honored that her peers see her as a leader.
Schmitt maintains a 3.97 GPA and will complete six dual-credit classes by the time she graduates. The Student of the Year Award recipient said she is motivated by her mom -- who is a teacher -- and her future ambitions.
“I have big dreams so I figured if I start early and try to keep my grades up the whole time, it should be easy to achieve them if I already have a good foundation,” she said.
One of those dreams is becoming a pharmacist. Schmitt started working as a clerk at Napoleon Drug when she was a sophomore. She said she fell in love with the place and could see herself working there in the future.
Schmitt plans to attend the University of Mary to get a bachelor’s degree in biology before getting a doctorate from North Dakota State University. She then hopes to return to Napoleon to work at the pharmacy.
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said Tuesday he was "surprised" when informed that his attorneys found government records at his former office space in Washington.
He was asked about the issue after the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee requested that the U.S. intelligence conduct a "damage assessment" of potentially classified documents.
Speaking to reporters in Mexico City, Biden said his attorneys "did what they should have done" when they immediately called the National Archives about the discovery at the offices of the Penn Biden Center. He kept an office there after he left the vice presidency in 2017 until shortly before he launched his presidential campaign in 2019.
The White House confirmed that the Department of Justice was reviewing "a small number of documents with classified markings" found at the office.
"I was briefed about this discovery and surprised to learn that there are any government records that were taken there to that office," Biden said in his first comments since news of the Nov. 2 document discovery emerged Monday.
He added that "I don't know what's in the documents" and that his lawyers had suggested he not ask.
Earlier Tuesday, Rep. Mike Turner sent the request to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, saying that Biden's retention of the documents put him in "potential violation of laws protecting national security, including the Espionage Act and Presidential Records Act."
The revelation that Biden potentially mishandled classified or presidential records could prove to be a political headache for the president, who called former President Donald Trump's decision to keep hundreds of such records at his private club in Florida "irresponsible. "
"Those entrusted with access to classified information have a duty and an obligation to protect it," said Turner in a letter to Haines. "This issue demands a full and thorough review."
On Tuesday, Rep. James Comer, the new GOP chairman of the House Oversight Committee, sent the White House Counsel's office a letter requesting copies of the documents found at the Biden office, communications about the discovery, and a list of those who may have had access to the office where they were found. The White House didn't immediately respond to the request.
Haines agreed in September to conduct a "risk assessment" rather than a "damage assessment" of the Trump case.
There are significant differences between the Trump and Biden situations, including the gravity of an ongoing grand jury investigation into the Mar-a-Lago matter. The intelligence risk assessment into the Trump documents is to examine the seized records for classification as well as "the potential risk to national security that would result from the disclosure of the relevant documents."
Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for a briefing on the documents.
"Our system of classification exists in order to protect our most important national security secrets, and we expect to be briefed on what happened both at Mar-a-Lago and at the Biden office as part of our constitutional oversight obligations," he said. "From what we know so far, the latter is about finding documents with markings, and turning them over, which is certainly different from a months-long effort to retain material actively being sought by the government. But again, that's why we need to be briefed."
Special counsel to the president Richard Sauber said Monday that after Biden's attorneys found the records, they notified the National Archives and Records Administration — which took custody of the documents the next day.
"Since that discovery, the President's personal attorneys have cooperated with the Archives and the Department of Justice in a process to ensure that any Obama-Biden Administration records are appropriately in the possession of the Archives," Sauber said.
A person who is familiar with the matter Attorney General Merrick Garland asked U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch to review the matter after the Archives referred the issue to the department. Lausch is one of the few U.S. attorneys to be held over from Trump's administration.
Trump weighed in Monday on his social media site, asking, "When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?"
Republicans just took control of the House of Representatives and promised to launch widespread investigations of Biden's administration.
The revelation also could complicate the Justice Department's consideration of whether to bring charges against Trump, who is trying to win back the White House in 2024 and has repeatedly claimed the department's inquiry into of his own conduct amounted to "corruption."
The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. Spokespeople for Garland and Lausch declined to comment.
Comer also sent a letter to the National Archives requesting records and correspondence relating to discovery of the Biden documents, asserting that "NARA's inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records held by former President Trump and President Biden raises questions about political bias at the agency."
His Democratic counterpart, Rep. Jamie Raskin, said Biden's attorneys "appear to have taken immediate and proper action."