Legislation introduced by Sen. Darwin Booher on Tuesday would require that the January and May state revenue estimating conferences report on the state’s unfunded liabilities.
The May revenue estimating conference is scheduled for Wednesday, May 15.
“This is about ensuring that lawmakers and the public have a comprehensive picture of the state’s financial situation when making important budget decisions,” said Booher, R-Evart. “The revenue estimating conferences in January and May are designed to bring the state’s best minds together to look at all the data and economic forecasts and come to an agreement on how much the state can expect to budget for in the next year. Having attended the conferences for the past nine years, it only makes sense that the state’s long-term unfunded liabilities should be taken into account.”
Senate Bill 359 would require the revenue estimating conference participants to report on the state’s unfunded liabilities. The January and May conferences include the state budget director or state treasurer, the directors of the Senate and House fiscal agencies and state economists.
Each conference provides a report on items, such as the amount collected in taxes by the state, General Fund and School Aid Fund revenues and an official economic forecast for the year. There is currently no requirement that the conference report on unfunded liabilities.
“It was reported last year that the state’s unfunded liabilities actually exceed the total annual state budget,” Booher said. “These liabilities are the cost of the benefits we have promised to employees and retirees that are not paid for by investment returns and employee contributions. Simply put, it is the amount taxpayers will be forced to cover.”
Booher noted that current legislators are addressing the state unfunded liabilities through reform and paying down debt.
“After 40 year of experience as a banker, I know the importance of understanding your debt situation and having a plan to eliminate it,” Booher said. “I sponsored this reform so that this critical information is provided to all future legislators, especially in the era of term limits, as they make decisions that will impact the lives of my children and grandchildren.”
SB 359 has been referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.