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Idaho Lawmakers, Gov Agree On Revenue Forecast

By JOHN MILLER

BOISE, Idaho (AP) â¿¿ In a rare move since the Great Recession hit the state, Idaho lawmakers decided Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's tax revenue forecast for the coming fiscal year wasn't too optimistic.

The Economic Outlook and Revenue Assessment Committee voted 14-4 Tuesday to support the estimate Otter announced Monday, which foresees 2014 revenue of $2.8 billion, for about 5 percent more than the current year.

The vote reflects optimism that Idaho's economy is on the rebound.

It also leaves plenty of financial wiggle room to pay for Otter's proposal to use $20 million to fund personal property tax relief and to put $35 million in savings accounts.

House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley and a supporter of Otter's forecast, conceded he was behind it in part for tactical considerations, so as not to artificially restrain debate in coming weeks over the governor's budget priorities.

"At this date, I don't see anything wrong with the governor's placeholder number," Bedke said. "If we get out in front of this and tighten the number down too much, then I think that will stymie discussion with respect to personal property tax."

This forecast is an important starting point for budget talks, but it is only a recommendation to members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee who will be crafting the spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1.

They'll have the benefit of seeing at least February's numbers before making a final decision.

Since 2009, Otter's fiscally conservative credentials have largely been one-upped as nearly every edition of this panel voted to undercut his administration's revenue projections. That year, the lawmakers adopted a budget figure that was a full $101 million less than Otter's economists.

Last year, even as the economy showed signs of balking improvement, their figure was still $33 million less than the Republican chief executive's.

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