By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The state’s top financial experts had some good news for Wyoming legislators as they headed into their one-day legislative opening session Tuesday, with forecasts for income for the state’s next two years improving slightly.
Income estimates for the state for fiscal 2021 through 2022 — which began on July 1 and will end on June 30, 2022 — grew by $82 million over projections made in October by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group.
The CREG is a group of top financial experts from across state government who regularly assess what the state’s revenues will look like going forward. The group’s latest report was issued Tuesday as legislators gathered virtually for a one-day session that would be followed up later in the year by more extensive meetings to tackle legislation.
CREG estimated in May that the state could face shortfalls of $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion in funding for both general government operations and education, prompting Gov. Mark Gordon to cut state spending by $250 million and propose another $500 million in cuts in his supplemental budget now being studied by lawmakers.
The bulk of the shortfall was blamed on reduced coal production in the state and losses in sales taxes blamed on the coronavirus.
However, in the report issued Tuesday, the CREG said it has adjusted its sales tax income upward by about $32.2 million over projections made in October.
The report said although sales taxes income remains substantially lower than what was seen in fiscal 2020, the drop is not as severe as what had earlier been forecast.
The improved outlook is the result of federal coronavirus assistance funds still flowing into local economies, the second round of federal stimulus payments being sent to taxpayers, slight improvements in sales taxes generated by oil and natural gas drilling and sales taxes from the construction of wind power projects, the report said.
At the same time, the CREG increased its forecast for mineral severance taxes over the biennium by $18.7 million, due largely to a slight boost in estimated oil production over the next two years.
The group’s forecast for federal mineral royalties also increased by $11.6 million, while investment income was forecast to grow by $19.7 million over earlier projections.