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Revenues negative for month -- what gives?
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Just when we had grown accustomed to accelerated revenue growth (6.2 percent) for the year and the state was riding a wave of positive developments, and having passed budgets of over $26 billion, March revenues dropped in at minus 0.5 percent for the month. Individual Income Taxes were negative at -3.2 percent, Corporate Taxes at -16 percent, and other categories like Alcoholic Beverages, -2.4 percent, Title Ad Valorem Taxes at -17.9 percent and highway impact fees at -21.1 percent.

Some, not many,
positives for the month
Net Sales Taxes did increase in March, up 3.6 percent and Tobacco Taxes were up 4.4 percent. Tag, Title and Fees were up 20 percent.

Transportation taxes
and fees increase
Fuel Excise Taxes were up 3.5 percent for the month while Hotel Motel fees were flat at 0.6 percent and Highway Impact Fees were down slightly at -21.1 percent. Altogether the total for Transportation was
Up slightly at 2.7 percent.

Year to date
numbers slip slightly
March’s flat slightly negative month lowered most percentages and if no further reduction happens in oncoming months, this will all just be a bad memory. Total revenues for the Fiscal year to date come in at 5.4 percent, still a leading number in the Southeast. Individual Income Taxes are up YTD 8.3 percent and Sales Taxes are steady at 3.2 percent Fuel Taxes and fees are up 3.1 percent. The 12-month tracking average is at 5.9 percent and the state is about $410 million ahead of budget for the year after 9 months with a quarter to go.

Rural health-front
burner issue this year
Some of the health statistics for rural areas are “third world” like and the distance many citizens in rural areas have to travel is complicated by – the shortage of health professionals and the pressure that rural hospitals face today. There is a lot of work going on addressing the issues facing health care or the lack of it in rural areas.
– HB 697 – Extends the sales tax exemption for rural health clinics and volunteer health clinics for another year until July 1, 2019.
– HB 769 – Establishes the Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability, sets up a grant program for physicians in underserved areas, changes eligible counties to those with less than 50,000 population, changes the tax credit to 100% for the Rural Hospital Tax Credit exemption.
– SB 357 – “The Health Act” creates and sets up the Health Coordination and Innovation Council. Adds three organizations that will report to the Council.
– SB 370 – waives the first $25,000 of any estate that the state would have claim to having paid for Medicaid expenses during life.

FY 2019 budget funding
for rural health
– $250,000 – In Behavioral health, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Peer Recovery Program
– $1,902,280 – Total with Medicaid match, $19,022,800, for development, design and implementation of an Enterprise Data Solution to future portals to support rural data analytics partners
– $750,000 – Matching funds for a new Federally Qualified Health Center in Bryan County and matching funds for extension of behavioral health services at FQHC’s in Early and Emanuel Counties
– $75,000 – funds to oversee RFP bid process for the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center
– $300,000 – to support start-up of Rural Health Systems Innovation Center
– $1.5 million – for start-up of Health Coordination and Innovation Council
– $335,188 – Total with Medicaid match, $1,042,250 to fund a $250 add-on payment for newborn delivery in rural counties.
– $500,000 – Total with Medicaid match, $1,554,726 to establish criteria and implement reimbursement for evidence-based prenatal care programs
– $300,000 – for two rural surgical fellowships at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital
– $40,000 – for a statewide residency recruitment fair
– $130,000 – for malpractice insurance premium assistance for physicians with a practice in underserved counties that have one or less physicians
– $200,000 – for the start-up of the South Georgia Campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine

New feature – ‘Did you know?’
As I read and follow issues and numbers that relate to the state and national economy, I run into facts and predictions that surprise me. When I see something surprising or informative, I will pass it on under the “DID YOU KNOW?” caption.
A recent Wall Street Journal article revealed that growth in domestic oil production in the U.S. would about equal the increase in demand world-wide in the coming year. They quoted the U.S. Energy Information Administration in its Annual Energy Outlook that the “U.S. output would reach 11 million barrels a day by the fourth quarter, a year ahead of schedule.” The agency also predicted that the U.S. could become A NET OIL EXPORTER in four years! Even with just this year’s sharp increase, the U.S. would jump ahead of Saudi Arabia, the largest oil producer in OPEC.