State poised to end year with surplus

By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – House Appropriations Chair Herb Frierson, R-Poplarville, said the state is poised to end the fiscal year later this month with a “substantial” surplus, based on May tax collections.
For May, the state collected $170.9 million, or 44.5 percent, more than the amount the state’s fiscal leaders projected would be collected. Those official projections were used during the 2012 legislative session to fund state government for the current fiscal year.
“It will probably be substantial,” Frierson said of the ending cash balance due to revenue exceeding projections. “Just guessing, without my spreadsheets in front of me, it might be $300 million.”
Frierson pointed out that May was “a real good month” for revenue collections, but not as good at it appears on first blush. Apparently, there were individual income taxes collected in April but not recorded until May. Collections in April were $46 million, or 8.2 percent, below the estimate.
At the time, Kathy Waterbury, a spokeswoman for the Department of Revenue, said of the drop in collections, “We think the majority of it may be due to timing of receipts/processing. We won’t know for certain until all of the income tax mail is opened and processed.”
With income tax revenue being $119.9 million, or 184.1 percent, above the estimate for May, it appears Waterbury was correct.
Regardless of the glitches in April and May, year-to-date collections appear to be strong. Collections through May are $228.1 million, or 5.5 percent, above the estimate – not counting an additional $35 million contributed to the revenue stream by the settlement of lawsuits by Attorney General Jim Hood.
Collections are $215 million, or 5.1 percent, above what was collected during the same 11-month period last year, not counting the lawsuit settlement funds.
State revenue includes sales taxes on retail items, income taxes, taxes on income, casino gambling taxes, taxes on insurance premiums and various other taxes. Casino taxes remain sluggish at $9 million, or 6.6 percent, below the amount collected during the same period last year.
In March, House leaders wanted to increase the estimate for the current year, making some of those funds available for the 2013 Legislature to appropriate, but the Senate leadership would not consent.
Now much of those funds will be available for the 2014 Legislature to appropriate for the fiscal year beginning the following July.
bobby.harrison@journalinc.com