EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS, Associated Press
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi tax collections were higher than expected for the first two months of the state budget year, but a top lawmaker said Friday that it’s too early to know whether the good numbers indicate steady improvement in the state economy.
“I hope we can sustain it,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, said of the growth. “It takes you four, five or six months to see a trend.”
According to the state Department of Revenue, tax collections for July and August, combined, were 4.3 percent higher than lawmakers estimated. That translates into an extra $26.9 million.
If collections remain strong, lawmakers are likely to use the extra money next spring to fill holes in the budget for fiscal 2014, which ends June 30. Frierson said, for example, that he expects the Department of Corrections to request $20 million to $22 million to get through the year.
The Department of Revenue figures are broken into several categories, including sales taxes, individual and corporate income taxes, liquor taxes and beer and wine taxes.
Sales tax collections were 5.1 percent stronger than anticipated for July and August, though Frierson said he didn’t know whether that was driven by back-to-school purchases or other types of shopping.
Liquor tax collections were 3.2 percent higher than expected for the two months, while beer and wine tax collections fell 3.2 percent short of predictions.
Though the current fiscal year is just over two months old, lawmakers are about to start working on a budget for next year. The 14-member Joint Legislative Budget Committee will meet Sept. 16-19 in Jackson to hear state agencies’ spending requests for fiscal 2015, which begins next July 1.
The meetings are open to the public. A schedule released Friday shows:
— Sept. 16: Presentations by the Personnel Board, Department of Health, Forestry Commission, Department of Agriculture and Commerce, treasurer, secretary of state, Insurance Department, attorney general and Mississippi Development Authority.
— Sept. 17: Community colleges, the Department of Corrections, Division of Medicaid, Department of Mental Health, Military Department and Department of Finance and Administration.
— Sept. 18: Department of Education, Department of Marine Resources, State Port Authority, Department of Public Safety, Department of Transportation, Public Employees Retirement System, Supreme Court, Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
— Sept. 19: Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Revenue.
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