By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
March offers positive sign
Placeholder Image

A $10 million gain for one month may have seemed miniscule at one time, but considering Georgia has had 18 months on continuous declines in revenues, even a breakeven or slightly positive month is cause for optimism.  

March is actually the second lowest month of the year traditionally and this month’s total revenue of $998 million is almost $300 million below the average monthly revenue needed to meet the revised revenue projections on $15.2 billion, or $1.2 billion per month. But we shouldn’t blame the month of March for not being December … we should just be grateful that a turning point may have been reached.

From February of each year, the determining factor in revenues is affected greatly by tax refunds being paid out by the state and whether they are up or down in dollars compared to the year before. This year is complicated because last year, refunds processing lagged, with some $166 million not paid out until after July 1. Paying those out in the next fiscal year left April, May and June totals appearing higher than they would have if the refunds had been processed in a timely manner.

Hopefully, this year, those refunds will be paid out before June 30, so the state can start July and FY2011 “even-steven.”

So, here are the revenue numbers and an analysis of the refund situation.

For March, individual income tax collections were down only -2.6 percent, a vast improvement. Net sales taxes to the state were down 11.6 percent. Corporate tax collections were up $11 million, or about 19 percent. Motor fuel excise taxes were up 4 percent but motor fuel sales taxes were off 40 percent, or a net decline of $11 million or 19 percent.

Year to date numbers still sobering
Total revenues at the third quarter mark are down 11.5 percent, or -$1.33 billion under the previous fiscal year. Individual income taxes are down -11.8 percent, and net sales taxes are down 13.3 percent. Interestingly, sales tax distributions to local governments are up 5.4 percent. Corporate income taxes are down YTD by -10.2 percent. Motor fuel excise taxes are slightly up at 1.1 percent, but sales taxes are down 22 percent. Total motor fuel tax collections are down YTD by $73.6 million ,or 10.9 percent.

Refunds — more of them or just quicker filing?
The amount of refunds affects state revenues directly. So far this fiscal year, the number of tax refunds has increased some 300,000 and the dollar amount is up $400 million, keeping in mind that about $166 million was shifted into this year by delays last year.

Maybe a more current view of refunds is to look at just the period of January through March to compare refunds to view the trend. For January-March, total refunds are up 214,127 and the amount of refunds is up $156 million. Interestingly, today the number of electronic returns is almost twice the number of paper returns, but the increase in refunds is higher in paper than electronic.

This recession has been full of surprises — and not the good variety. So it is still too early to know how this fiscal year will play out. The two big tax categories, income taxes and sales taxes, could be stabilizing, but any gains could be obscured by continuing increases in refunds.

“And the days dwindle down … to a precious few”
With only seven session days left, there is a lot to accomplish before the legislature can adjourn. The FY2010 amended budget has not been settled at conference.  The FY11 general budget must be passed by both bodies and settled in conference as well. Two important pieces of the revenue side of the FY 2011 budget, HB 307 and HB 1055, must also be passed in order to produce a balanced budget.

Additionally, some important pieces of legislation hang in the balance. If any legislation to address transportation issues is to pass, it appears it will be the product of a conference committee of an earlier bill, HB 277. Putting together an answer to the future transportation funding needs of Atlanta and all of the state has not happened over the past three years so far.  

The governor’s proposal would have divided the state into 12 regions with each region holding a tax referendum in 2012. Citizens in each region would vote on a 1 percent sales tax to fund a specific list of transportation projects within the region. A conference committee is currently trying to craft a bill satisfactory to both houses.       

If you would like additional information regarding a specific piece of legislation, you may access the Georgia General Assembly web site at and enter the specific bill number in the top right hand corner of your screen.  
I can be reached at
234 State Capitol, Atlanta, GA 30334
(404) 656-5038 (phone)
(404) 657-7094 (fax)
E-mail at
Or call toll-free at
1-800-367-3334 day or night
 Reidsville office: (912) 557-3811