By PHIL KABLER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Despite a second straight month in the black, with March revenue collections exceeding projections by 9 percent, state Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said Thursday it won’t be enough to close a overall 2016-17 budget shortfall before the budget year ends on June 30.
“Even though March numbers are fairly positive, we believe there is still red ink ahead for the state,” Hardy said. “April is our most significant month for revenue expectations, but given recent trends, we don’t believe we are going to hit our estimate for April.”
State tax collections for March totaled $331.5 million, $26.3 million better than expected, driven primarily by better than projected collections for severance taxes and for personal income taxes.
Severance tax collections of $40.24 million were 48 percent ahead of projections, and $4.1 million better than March 2016.
Hardy said that reflects an upturn in natural gas prices, and increased sales of coal from last year’s downturn in energy prices and demand.
Personal income tax collections, driven in part by royalty payments on coal and natural gas production, exceeded projections by $3.7 million, at $120.7 million.
The other major source of tax revenue, sales taxes, fell short of estimates by $1.2 million, at $93.42 million. However, that is about $370,000 above March 2016 collections.
With three months remaining in the budget year, year-to-date revenue collections of $2.847 billion amount to a $79.59 million budget shortfall. However, Hardy noted that had the state not made a series of one-time shifts of funds to gap-fill the budget, the shortfall would be $112.6 million.
An appropriations bill that would provide $101 million to close the current budget year shortfall, by taking $41.7 million out of the state Rainy Day emergency reserve fund, and sweeping about $60 million from a lengthy number of special revenue accounts (HB2801) passed the House of Delegates on Monday and is on second reading on the Senate floor on Friday.
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