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Revenue gains holding up
Hill Jack
Sen. Jack Hill

November state revenues continued the strong showing so far in the fiscal year with the five-month total showing a gain of $358.9 million, compared to the five-month total of a year ago.

November revenues showed $1.457 billion with a gain of some $60.4 million or 4.3 percent for the month. Individual income taxes gained $53.4 million on total collections of $747.6 million, or 7.7 percent, a very strong showing. Inside the numbers, withholding payments were up some $44 million, a 6.2 percent increase, while refunds were down $20.5 million.

Net sales tax collections to the state for the month were up 3.4 percent or $14.4 million, on total net sales tax collections of $437.8 million. Incidentally, sales tax collections for local governments also increased by 6.6 percent or $24.7 million for the month.

Possibly the falling price of gasoline may be having a dampening effect on fuel tax collections, with November totals being negative for both excise and sales taxes. Fuel taxes totaled $83.8 million, down 6.6 percent for the month.

Corporate income taxes were small, $2.5 million, but gained $1.5 million for the month. Tobacco taxes were down 6.2 percent while alcoholic beverages were up 5.8 percent.

The title tax category continued to gain, showing total fees of $84.2 million, a gain of $14.1 million for the month.

Year-to-date totals strong overall
At $7.699 billion, total revenue collections so far for the five months of the fiscal year continue to be strong.  The net increase of fiscal year 2015 over the FY14 five months now totals $358.9 million and shows a 4.9 percent gain, staying in that 5 percent range.

Individual income tax collections are running a 5.5 percent YTD increase on $4.015 billion in collections, increasing by $210.1 million.

Net sales taxes to the state are up 6.3 percent or $131.7 million on collections of $2.231 billion for the five months. Local distribution of sales taxes is also up $129.7 million or 6.9 percent.

The only real problem is motor fuel tax revenues, decreasing some $15.8 million for the five months with sales taxes and excise taxes down 5.3 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

Corporate taxes are down for the year so far by $13.5 million or 5.6 percent. Maybe the final month of the quarter, December, will return the category to positive territory.

Tobacco taxes are down 2.2 percent but alcoholic beverages collections are up 4.6 percent.

Tag/title fees are up $47 million for the year on totals of $474 million, an increase of 11 percent even in the second year of new auto sales taxes being replaced by title/tag fees.

So, 4.9 percent is still a good growth rate and mirrors the trailing 12-month rate of 4.9 percent.

How Georgia is doing versus other states
The Senate Budget and Evaluation Office has begun to track other state’s revenue growth so we can see how Georgia is faring comparatively. The good news is that as of the first four months of the year, only Texas has shown a higher 12-month trailing growth rate than Georgia, coming in at 6.9 percent, but more on that in a moment.

North Carolina is showing negative revenue growth, perhaps tied to a reduction in income taxes passed this previous year that may have been underestimated. South Carolina, sometimes held up because of a lower unemployment rate, only has a 12-month trailing growth rate of 2.1 percent this year. Alabama, with its separate education budget, is only seeing a 12-month average of 1.7 percent so far. And Florida is close to Georgia’s pace, at 4 percent.

And, the high gas/oil revenue states are beginning to suffer as revenues from falling oil prices are reducing tax collections. More on this later, but oil and gas states are routinely reporting under budget revenue collections in those states. So even though Texas is ahead of Georgia right now, that may not last.

Georgia, of course, depends on none of these revenues and is in no danger from falling oil prices. In fact, consumers in Georgia will be benefitting from having more disposable income left after filling up during this holiday season and into the next year if predictions hold true.

So, you have to be encouraged about Georgia’s revenue growth, which is tied closely to employment payrolls, quarterly business profits and small business activity.

I may be reached at
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