The legislative session is in high gear and on March 18th the OMB released what they are calling their March 2015 Revenue Forecast (found here). This is an updated revenue number for the legislators, and I think it comes as no surprise that some of the numbers were down, especially oil. Looking ahead to the 2015-17 biennium the forecast is for a decline in oil revenues by $869,745,374. That is on top of more than $100 million less in the remainder of the current biennium. Does this number seem plausible? Sure.
Thinking about fiscal policy dominates my time lately. Mostly my concern is with parsing the data in such a way to make sense of the various arguments out there about the proper course for fiscal policy. Recall that I doubt that anyone is willing to reduce spending by enough to balance the budget. So if we are to see balanced budgets at some point, the timing of that is a topic for another post, it seems likely to me that tax increases will be necessary. Anyway, those policy issues will be covered another day.
At least that is the case for the healthcare obligations of most states and local areas, though Robert Pozen points out that this is likely to change soon (available here). This is something I discussed when Detroit went through bankruptcy proceedings. Pension and healthcare obligations of the city made a contribution to the bankruptcy, but only because the broader electorate allow it. If we get accurate accounting and compel elected officials to use realistic discount rates there would be a better sense of the amount of these obligations. The proposed accounting changes are a step in the right direction, requiring more transparency and better assumptions.
A recent report out by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (available as a pdf here) looks at the connection between state tax rates and migration between states. Or maybe it does not. They find little connection between changes in state tax rates and the migration between states.
So J.T. and I discussed my post on tobacco bonds while I was on the radio today. One of the things that amazed him, and me too, was the notion the rate of smoking fell more than assumed. So, doing what I do, I went online and got some data, this time from the OECD.