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Late revenue report follows declining collection trends

Gov. Phil Bryant

Gov. Phil Bryant

By BOBBY HARRISON

The trend of declining state revenue collections continued during July – the first month of the new fiscal year.

Mississippi’s July revenue report, released on Monday during the final days of August, reveals the state collected $11.5 million or 3.9 percent less than it did during July 2015.

The staff of the Legislative Budget Committee normally has the monthly report finished within a week of the end of the month. Legislative staff said the delay in the July report resulted from having to deal with legislative changes made during the 2016 session in how revenue is collected and with end-of-fiscal-year closeout issues.

At any rate, the report continued the string of bad news confronting legislators and Gov. Phil Bryant in regards to the budget and revenue collections.

During the previous fiscal year, revenue collections were less than the prior year for only the fourth time since 1970 and for the first time when the nation as a whole was not in a recession. The decline forced Bryant to make two rounds of budget cuts and to dip into the state’s rainy day fund three times.

And to start the current fiscal year, numerous agencies announced they were being forced to make cuts because of legislative appropriations.

In addition, by some estimates the Legislature appropriated as much as $130 million more than it will receive in revenue even if tax collections meet the official projections.

But for at least the first month of the fiscal year, revenue collections are not meeting projections. If the trend continues, Bryant could be forced to make another round of cuts later this year.

Nearly all categories of tax collections were down from the previous July. The two largest sources of revenue – sales taxes and personal income taxes – were down $1.8 million or 2.4 percent and $4.2 million or 3.9 percent respectively.

The one bright spot was corporate income tax collections, which were up $2.3 million or 14.5 percent from July 2015.

Gaming tax revenue was down $2.4 million or 17.9 percent.

The ongoing budget woes have prompted two credit rating agencies – Fitch and Moody’s – to downgrade the states credit rating in recent months.

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