Report: Idaho's Rainy Day Reserves Could Fund Government For 27 Days

Jan 15, 2015

If Idaho had to pay all its bills using just reserves, the state could have funded government for 27 days in fiscal year 2014.  That's according to a report released by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

State reserves, or rainy day accounts, were depleted during the recession as states relied on that money to pay for an increase in welfare costs and unemployment insurance benefits. 

The swings in Idaho's ability to fund government on reserves has ebbed with economic swings. Pew finds in fiscal year 2000, Idaho could pay its bills for 47.3 days, in FY 2003 -- after the 2001 recession -- Idaho could fund just 3 days of government using reserves.

Idaho's rainy day account is performing better than half the states with an estimated $206 million available in FY 2014, and an estimated $230 million in FY 2015.

"Half of the states expected to have enough of a financial cushion at the end of fiscal year 2014 to cover at least 24 days of operating expenses, a partial rebound to the levels they had before the Great Recession.

In a sign of improving fiscal health, states have been rebuilding their financial cushions since the end of the Great Recession in 2009. Still, estimated reserve levels at the close of fiscal 2014 were 17 days short of the median of 41 days’ worth of operating expenses that states had on hand in fiscal 2007, just before the downturn." - Pew

Credit Data: Pew | Chart: Emilie Ritter Saunders

During its most recent peak in fiscal year 2006, Idaho could have funded state government using its reserves for 67.6 days, with $411 million.

Here's how some of Idaho's neighbors fared in fiscal year 2014:

  • Oregon: 10.9 days, $236 million
  • Utah: 41.6 days, $617 million
  • Montana: 70.7 days, $424 million

It's important to note that Pew's data and methodology may not be complete. Pew says its data analysis doesn't include revenue sources some states may have outside its general fund.

Find Emilie Ritter Saunders on Twitter @EmilieRSaunders

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