Revenue up, not enough

By Bobby Harrison

JACKSON – Mississippi’s state revenue collections, used to fund everything from public schools to Highway Patrol troopers to state parks, continue to grow.
But the growth is not enough to prevent additional cuts to state agencies during the 2013 legislative session, members of the House Appropriations Committee were told Wednesday.
For May, tax collections were $23.3 million, or 6.4 percent, above the revenue estimate used during the 2011 session to fund the state budget for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
For the year, tax collections are $209.1 million, or 5.2 percent, above that estimate.
During the 2012 session, which ended in May, the Legislature committed about $160 million of revenue above the estimate to fund budget needs. The rest will be available for the 2013 Legislature to appropriate.
How much that will be will depend on revenue collections for the current month – the last of the fiscal year.
During a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee Wednesday, Chairman Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, said any surplus funds from the current fiscal year will be needed to help fund upcoming budget holes.
Members of the Appropriations Committee were informed that they used $432 million in non-recurring funds during the 2012 session to fund recurring expenses. That is down more than $100 million from the previous year.
In recent years, during the economic downturn, state leaders have found various sources of one-time money to offset a slowdown in revenue or tax collections.
“I anticipate we will still be looking for agencies to cut money,” Frierson told committee members. “Unless we have a huge growth in revenue, we are not out of the woods yet.”
While revenue collections are increasing, they are still not to the point they were in 2008 before the recession hit. For fiscal year 2008, the state collected $4.94 billion in revenue, from taxes on income, retail items, casino gambling and various other sources. For the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1, the state’s financial experts have estimated revenue collections of $4.82 billion.
For the current 2012 fiscal year, the state has collected $220 million, or 5.5 percent more, than it did during the same period a year ago.
While legislators would like to see better revenue growth, it is much better than it was in fiscal years 2008-09 when for the first time in recent history the state had two years where it collected less revenue than the previous year. The state bounced back from two years where revenue growth was more than 4 percent less than the previous year to have modest growth of 2.3 percent in 2011.
The state appears to be finishing the current 2012 fiscal year with growth of more than 5 percent.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com