Joe Morrissette, right, director of North Dakota Office of Management and Budget, presents his report on the status of the general fund to members of the Government Finance Interim Committee on Monday at the state Capitol in Bismarck.

Preliminary figures from the last fiscal month show state revenues largely in step with last spring’s forecast.

Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrissette told the Government Finance Committee Wednesday that "we are continuing to track very closely to our legislative forecast.”

The last fiscal month of revenues and transfers wavered 0.2 percent below the forecast, totaling $110.8 million, according to a preliminary statement. Overall, state revenues are 1.7 percent over the forecast, at about $1.6 billion with $2.7 billion left to collect this biennium based on the forecast, Morrissette said.

He stressed the preliminary status of February’s figures and said there should be “very, very small variances" after agencies' adjustments.

“We know there should be some changes, but they should be small,” he said in an interview.

Corporate income tax figures to date suggest a 70 percent overage from the forecast, but Morrissette said “a lot of unknowns” remain for how that revenue will iron out after tax refunds and effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Morrissette also told the committee that, from an estimated end balance of $112 million, $65 million should carry over into the 2019-21 general fund, with $47 million to go into the budget stabilization fund.

Gov. Doug Burgum said in a statement that preparations continue for an uncertain financial future.

“We’re running only slightly ahead of a very conservative revenue forecast, and, with two-thirds of the biennium left, there remains economic and revenue uncertainty in the months ahead," he said. "Reserve funds were nearly depleted last session to balance the budget. We are preparing for another challenging budget in 2019-21, making it even more important that we keep reinventing our approaches to delivering services and be more efficient with taxpayer dollars."

Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, D-New Rockford, said she hadn't yet had a chance to review the new figures but said she knows recent state revenues have been "at or above what our predictions were."

"There's going to be certainly a need to look at that as a positive for right now," she said. "Whether it stays steady or increasing, that's important for us right now, given the revenues in the last two to three years."

Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, said he's pleased for the immediate future but said planning for next biennium is the challenge.

"The interest from the Legacy Fund does help us meet some of our ongoing expenses that we need to meet next biennium," he said, also noting increased oil revenue.

Morrissette said the voter-approved Legacy Fund has about $5.5 billion: "That's about $30 million more in oil revenue than what was expected through February."

The Government Finance Committee's next meeting is tentatively set for June 7.

"As the biennium unfolds, we'll know more each month," Morrissette said. "So far, we’ve been tracking incredibly close to the forecast."

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Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.


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