BISMARCK - North Dakota lawmakers received a second opinion about projected tax revenues over the next few years Thursday, Sept. 13, that was similar to one they received last week.
Jim Diffley, an economist for IHS Markit, a consulting firm lawmakers hired last year, presented a report that included a less optimistic outlook for sales and individual income tax revenues for the remainder of the 2017-19 biennium and the next two-year budget cycle, while projecting rosier figures for motor vehicle excise and corporate income taxes.
The report did not include oil tax revenues, but Diffley said they plan to present those figures to legislators soon. He called Thursday's report a "conservative" forecast.
"They're quite similar and I think that's a good thing," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, referring to an executive branch forecast lawmakers received last week.
Legislators will use the information and future reports to help predict revenues and set budgets during the next legislative session, which begins in January. Gov. Doug Burgum has called for budget cuts next session.
The IHS presentation predicts North Dakota's gross domestic product, a measure of economic activity, will surpass its 2014 peak of $60.9 billion and reach $61.9 billion next year, Diffley said. Carlson said that economic growth rate is "aggressive" but "every indication I see is the economy is growing."
The Legislative Revenue Advisory Committee previously hired IHS Markit over objections from the Office of Management and Budget, which has a contract with Moody's Analytics. OMB's previous director said in December that "political decisions" could be injected into the process by having two forecasts.
Lawmakers said they were seeking more input after previous revenue estimates missed the mark.
"We think that this is our involvement in the process," Carlson said after the committee meeting Thursday.
The IHS report predicts sales and use tax revenues will reach $1.8 billion in 2019-21, 4.7 percent less than the OMB forecast from last week. Sales tax is the largest contributor to the state's general fund.
But the report also predicts corporate income taxes will total $194.1 million next budget cycle, more than doubling the OMB projections.