Back during the heights of the Bakken boom, when oil activity was driving a tidal wave of revenues into state coffers, the revenue forecasts used by lawmakers and other state officials consistently underestimated those revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars.

At that time I heard consistently from lawmakers that this was a good thing. It hid the true revenue picture, they told me, to keep the Legislature from spending all the money. It also allowed state leaders to crow about a “billion dollar” budget surplus once the revenues actually came in. They were not shy about crediting themselves for this appearance of prudent government management.

That it was all based on faulty revenue forecasts, which were allowed to be faulty for the sake of political expediency, eventually came back and bit us all. When oil prices fell (alongside crop prices) are commodity-based economy took a double whammy, and suddenly the flawed forecasting models couldn’t find where rock bottom would be for state revenues.

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