W.Va. tax collections might be rebounding

After languishing for about two years, state tax collections in August showed signs of rebounding, with the $289.2 million in revenue coming in $16.16 million ahead of Aug. 2013, and near projections for the month, West Virginia Department of Revenue officials said Wednesday.

“Things are looking, I won’t say great, but are looking better,” Revenue Secretary Bob Kiss said of the August collections.

Overall, August collections missed estimates by $1.3 million — or less than half a percent. Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow noted that August revenue should have topped projections, except that a total of $4 million in revenue transfers that should have shown up in August figures ended up getting carried over to September.

“We would have had a $2.7 million surplus for the month,” he said.

The two biggest revenue sources — personal income taxes and consumer sales taxes — brought in $118.66 million and $100.13 million respectively, and were up a combined $6.7 million over Aug. 2013 collections.

Severance tax collections of $36.6 million exceeded August estimates by $4.2 million, as the boom in natural gas production continues to offset declines in coal production, Muchow said.

Corporate net tax collections of $4.58 million were nearly 70 percent above estimates, and ahead of Aug. 2013 collections, which Muchow said could be a good bellwether for the state economy.

“It clearly is good news that corporate tax is ahead of last year and ahead of estimate,” he said.

Kiss and Muchow said they won’t know until later this year if August collections were a onetime up-tick or a sign of sustained growth in the state economy.

For that reason, Kiss said, a hiring freeze ordered by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin last December will stay in effect in the short-term, but no other spending cuts are anticipated.

“At this point, it doesn’t appear we need to take any remedial action, but we’ll see where we are two or three months from now,” Kiss said.

“We’ve asked the governor to leave it in place for at least several months,” he said of the hiring freeze.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com, 304-348-1220, or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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