North Dakota revenues tracking slightly above Legislature's forecast

Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrisette speaks to the Government Finance Committee on Tuesday at the state Capitol.

State revenues to North Dakota’s general fund are running just above the Legislature’s projections.

Total revenues and transfers are 7.6% over the 2019 forecast for the two-year budget cycle that began July 1. Office of Management and Budget Director Joe Morrisette shared a report on Tuesday with the Legislature’s interim Government Finance Committee.

The general fund pays for general government operations. Sales tax, the largest revenue to the fund, is about 8.9% ahead of forecast, according to the revenue report.

Oil production and price per barrel are running about 5% and 4%, respectively, ahead of forecast for the biennium, according to a separate report from the Legislative Council.

North Dakota produced about 1.52 million barrels per day in November 2019. The state has so far collected more than $1.25 billion in oil tax revenue for the 2019-21 budget cycle, about 4.1% more than projected.

North Dakota’s Budget Stabilization Fund, which is for offsetting revenue shortfalls, had $666.6 million as of Jan. 31.

The state’s oil tax savings Legacy Fund was at $6.75 billion as of the same date. A committee of state lawmakers is taking public input on how to use the fund’s earnings, which eclipsed $455 million in the last two-year budget cycle. That committee next meets Feb. 19-20 in Watford City.

State Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger updated lawmakers on remote seller statistics since a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling giving states authority to collect sales tax from remote or online retailers. More than 6,200 remote sellers have since registered with North Dakota’s Tax Department.

North Dakota has since collected $37 million from remote sellers, with a state portion of $28.05 million and a local portion of $8.95 million.

The 2019 Legislature included $25 million from remote sellers in its 2019-21 revenue forecast, a projection which Rauschenberger said is well on track to being met or exceeded.

Sen. Ron Sorvaag, R-Fargo, who chairs the Government Finance Committee, said “things look good,” but “we’ve got a long ways to go” in the budget cycle, which ends after June 2021.

Gov. Doug Burgum’s office is holding strategy reviews with state agencies in preparation for 2021-23 budgeting. About half a dozen agencies have met with him so far, with more meetings scheduled this week and continuing sporadically through early April, governor’s spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.

Burgum began the practice of strategy reviews in 2018.

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