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State tax collections beat expectations again

ACROSS MISSISSIPPI — Mississippi tax collections beat expectations in August for the second month in a row, but state leaders said it’s too soon to declare the state economy has rebounded from the recession.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury said yesterday that preliminary numbers showed all three major tax categories — sales, individual income and corporate income — were up for the month.

Republican Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant said this was the third time in the past 25 months for Mississippi’s tax collections to exceed projections, and that it’s a good sign.

“I think it is trending in the right direction,” Bryant said in an interview. “But there are some things that could affect it. We’d love to see how the next several months go.”

Waterbury said overall tax collections in August were more than $12.4 million, or 3.9 percent, ahead of projections. For the first two months of the fiscal year — July and August — collections were $19.1 million ahead, or 3.6 percent.

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour was in Florida yesterday campaigning for the GOP gubernatorial nominee. He issued a news release urging caution with the budget.

“While tax collections for the first two months of the fiscal year have been close to our expectations, nothing changes the fact that we face a massive budgetary cliff in fiscal year 2012 when several hundreds of millions of federal stimulus dollars go away,” Barbour said. “We must keep this fact in mind as we begin planning our FY 2012 budget.”

Barbour and a bipartisan group of legislative leaders are trying to carry over some of the federal stimulus money.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee will meet in late September to hear state agencies’ spending requests for the fiscal year that begins next July 1. All 122 lawmakers will get to vote on the roughly $5 billion budget in early 2011.

Rep. Cecil Brown, D-Jackson, said Tuesday that state government budgets have been cut 12 percent this year and could be cut another 10 to 12 percent next year because of slumping revenues. Some school districts have laid off teachers, and state agencies have eliminated jobs.

“You can’t cut 25 percent out of state government and not impact services,” Brown said.


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