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Strong state revenue report could be last for foreseeable future

By Dave Williams
Bureau Chief
Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – The state probably has received its last positive revenue report for awhile.
The Georgia Department of Revenue reported Tuesday that tax collections increased by 9.8% last month compared to March of last year. The state brought in $1.83 billion in revenue last month, an increase of $163.5 million over March 2019.
While the coronavirus pandemic was starting to put a serious dent in Georgia’s economy last month, the rosy revenue report for March reflects a lag time between when businesses collect taxes and when they submit them to the state, said David Sjoquist, an economics professor at Georgia State University.
“March numbers are largely collected by firms in February,” he said.
The revenue increase in March was driven largely by individual income tax collections, which rose by 25.5% compared to March of last year. Individual income tax payments were up by 18.3%, while tax refunds plummeted 21.7%.
On the other hand, net sales tax receipts declined for the month by 2.4%. Corporate income taxes rose slightly, by 0.8%.
Sjoquist said the March report likely marks the end of positive revenues for the foreseeable future.
“The numbers next month will be quite a bit lower,” he said.
The General Assembly will have to grapple with the economic damage coronavirus is doing to the state’s bottom line when lawmakers resume a 2020 legislative session suspended indefinitely last month because of the virus.
Legislative leaders already have cast doubts on the state’s ability to continue making ends meet and still afford either the second installment of a $5,000 teacher pay raise Gov. Brian Kemp is recommending or an additional state income tax cut.
The $27.4 billion fiscal 2020 mid-year budget adjustment the General Assembly approved last month already is in place. The real challenge will be finding enough money to fund critical programs and services in fiscal 2021 starting July 1.

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