March revenue ends up $6M more than estimate

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – The final day of March brought even more good news for cash-strapped state coffers.
The state collected an additional $4.8 million on Wednesday to put tax collections at $6 million, or 1.4 percent, above the official estimate for March. The state had exceeded the estimate Tuesday.
Before Tuesday, the state had gone 18 months without meeting the revenue estimate and 15 months in which it collected less than in the same month the previous year.
The severity of the problem caused by that unprecedented drop in state tax collections will be highlighted Friday when the Department of Human Services, one of the largest state agencies, furloughs 3,000 of its employees for the day to save money.
DHS, like most state agencies, has been cut 9.5 percent, or $12.2 million, by Gov. Haley Barbour because revenue has not met the projection upon which the budget was built.
The furlough will affect all DHS offices, including county offices, with the exception of Oakley Training School. DHS provides services for children, the elderly and needy, including administering federal assistance programs, such as food stamps, and the foster parent program.
Julia Bryan, a spokeswoman for the agency, said no decision has been made on any further furloughs before the fiscal year ends June 30.
House and Senate negotiators are scheduled to resume work next week on developing a budget in anticipation of the full Legislature returning April 20.
Some speculate that because of March’s improved showing, an effort might be made to increase the revenue estimate for the coming year.
Senate Appropriations Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, said the March numbers do not provide reason enough to increase the estimate.
Corporate tax collections were $30 million – 22.8 percent – above the estimate in March. Sales tax collections, viewed by many as a key indicator of the economy, were still $8.6 million, or 5.5 percent, below the estimate.

Contact Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.