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Emilie Ritter Saunders reports: The lawmakers who shape Idaho’s annual budget will tour the northern part of the state this week to get a glimpse of their policy decisions in action.

Members of the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee, or JFAC, will spend three days at north Idaho businesses, landmarks, and schools.

Legislative budget and policy analyst Keith Bybee says it’s a chance for lawmakers to see how budget policies and decisions are working, instead of just hearing about it when they’re in a committee room at the Capitol in Boise.

Bybee says it’s important for lawmakers to understand how staffers like him spend the legislative off-season. “We spend a lot of time writing reports and making sure they [legislators] have the best information possible,” says Bybee.

The 20-member budget panel will start at the Beck Road Interchange on I-90 near Post Falls, Idaho. That’s where a massive Cabela’s sporting-goods store was built in 2007, thanks in-part to a sales tax break the shopping-center’s developer receivedfor building the costly highway interchange. The Legislature approved the sales tax deal in 2007, and then revamped it in 2009.

Lawmakers will spend time at North Idaho College, tour Farragut State Park where a new sewer system was recently installed, tour a couple of private businesses, and they’ll get briefed on the state’s finances,

With April tax collections coming in well above projections, the Spokesman-Reviewreports the state is looking at $184.9 million in reserves by the end of the month.

Bybee says even if tax collections just meet, not exceed, expectations for May and June, revenue is expected to be up 5.6 percent over the last fiscal year. “All economic signs are pointing toward good things, nothing has fallen off the table,” says Bybee.

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