BISMARCK - North Dakota lawmakers approved a budget forecast for the coming two-year budget cycle that's more conservative than the one used in former Gov. Jack Dalrymple's final budget last month.
The forecast, approved with just one dissenting vote between the two appropriations committees Thursday, Jan. 5, projects $146.2 million less in sales and use tax revenue over the 2017-19 biennium than the December forecast, a 7.5 percent reduction. It also estimates an average oil price of $48 per barrel for the entire biennium, down from last month's forecast of $51.88 per barrel for the first month and $53.18 for the remaining 23 months of the budget cycle.
"I would rather err on the side of being conservative than having to be back here to try and allot every agency because we way overshot our revenue mark," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo.
The forecasted individual income tax collections in the forecast approved Thursday was adjusted down by $19.6 million, an almost 2.8 percent reduction from the December forecast.
Lawmakers will receive another forecast in March. They convened at the state Capitol Tuesday for the 2017 session after a year that saw budget cuts and a special session to deal with a revenue shortfall.
Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, was the only legislator to vote against the forecast Thursday, although he said the December forecast "needs continued work."
"But the work that was put into it I think is sufficient for us to work with," he said.