Frugal Idaho among states in the black, with $60 million surplus

The Idaho Legislature adjourned for the year in better financial shape than most states, projecting a $60 million surplus in the fiscal year ending June 30. For fiscal 2014, the state expects to have a $51 million surplus in a $2.8 billion general fund budget, according to the Legislature’s budget office.

Meanwhile, 30 states faced a combined shortfall of $40 billion in fiscal 2013 and two-thirds will be a combined $25 billion short in 2014, according to the April 12 edition of the subscription-only Kiplinger Letter.

In addition to the projected surpluses, Idaho transferred $26 million to the budget stabilization account in fiscal 2013 and will put away another $35 million for a rainy day in fiscal 2014.

Kiplinger reports that the $25 billion shortfall projected for fiscal 2014 is “much better than the $71-billion gap two years ago but still far from when many states had surpluses.”

Still, Kiplinger warns, “Expect service cuts and/or tax increases that will boost costs for businesses and consumers.”

Seventeen states will raise fuel taxes this year, says the report, and drivers will also face higher fines for traffic infractions and increased enforcement.

Florida is considering taxing out-of-state online sales, an idea repeatedly rejected by the Idaho Legislature. Cigarette taxes are rising in parts of Oregon, alcohol taxes will increase in Philadelphia and West Virginia is raising taxes on lottery prizes. Massachusetts is lifting the exemption on sodas and candy, no longer classifying those items as groceries not subject to sales tax.

“And don’t be surprised by more ballot measures aimed at making money…new casinos or gambling initiatives in some jurisdictions, plus efforts to legalize pot,” the newsletter says.  “Both ventures would be heavily taxed and regulated…and could bring in big bucks.”

 ”The pain will be sharpest” in big states hit hardest in the recession — California, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois,” says Kiplinger. States with high defense spending will suffer from automatic spending cuts under sequestration: Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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