Three months until the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year, Pennsylvania’s revenue collections are 0.5 percent short of estimates.
The Department of Revenue reports through the first nine months of FY 13-14 it has collected $20.5 billion — $96.3 million behind approximations — but spokeswoman Elizabeth Brassell said that number “disguises the fiscal reality.”
Every year, the state transfers about $80 million in liquor profits in order to pay its bills. This year, to avoid selling securities, the Department of Revenue made the transfer earlier than usual. So, while the department reports being behind $20.7 million in March and $96.3 million below estimate for the fiscal year-to-date, the state is further in the hole than those numbers suggest.
“When you consider the timing of that transfer,” Brassell said, “we’re actually looking at about $100 million short for the month and $176 million short for the fiscal year.”
In March, corporation tax, general fund revenue, realty transfer tax and sales tax receipts collections came in under state projections. Inheritance and personal income tax revenues, as well as alcohol, cigarette and table game tax revenues were above estimates for the month.
Brassell, said corporation tax revenue and sales tax collections were big disappointments in March.
“The nasty weather in February did have an impact on these March collections,” she said, “and we’re hoping that, as the weather clears up and become nicer in the spring months, maybe we’ll recoup some of that sales tax due to pent-up spending.”
Personal income tax was above estimate in March and Brassell said this could be a sign of greater job retention for Pennsylvania workers.
“We ended up the month with $30 million over estimate,” she said, “but it’s always better to end at estimate or over estimate as compared to under estimate, because, obviously, the further under estimate we are then the more dollars that we have to find in the budgeting process.”
When it comes to year-to-date collections, only non-tax revenue, which includes parking fines and court costs, sits above approximations, bringing in $304.9 million thus far — 65.3 percent above estimate.
Brassell said it’s hard to tell whether or not the state’s collections can jump above estimate by the end of the fiscal year.
“We get over $4 billion in March and close to $4 billion in April,” she said. “So, until those two really big collection months come in, the commonwealth usually operates pretty close to its baseline.”