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Barbour still urges caution on budget

JACKSON — Mississippi revenue collections exceeded estimates in November — the fourth time that has occurred since the fiscal year began July 1.

Preliminary numbers released Tuesday show collections for November were $609,339, or 0.19 percent, above the estimate. That amount should improve as additional numbers are obtained in the coming days for November.

Figures reported Tuesday represent taxes collected by the state Department of Revenue, such as the sales tax, income tax and casino gambling tax.

Collections for the first five months of the fiscal year probably will be between 1.5 percent and 2 percent above the estimate. The estimate is important because it is the amount of money the Legislature appropriated during the 2010 session to fund the general fund, which includes education, Medicaid, economic development and various other aspects of state government.

In recent years, as state tax collections have come in below the estimate during the economic downturn, Gov. Haley Barbour has made cuts to most state agencies.

Even without the “other than” category, state tax collections for current fiscal year are $37.4 million above the amount collected during the same time period one year ago.

Despite the improved financial outlook, Barbour said the state still faces a budget crunch.

“While I’m pleased to report that we surpassed the estimate, the need to prepare our state for another difficult fiscal year still exists,” he said in a prepared statement.

“The economy still is not strong, and the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds dictates that we prepare a fiscal year 2012 budget recognizing that Mississippians expect their government to prioritize state spending rather than reach deeper into their pockets.”

Before the modest turnaround for the current fiscal year, the state revenue came in below estimate for 21 of the previous 22 months.

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