A $57 million infusion of federal stimulus funds, meant to offset expenses for West Virginia’s COVID-19 response, helped June revenue collection finish in the black, reversing two months of tax collection devastated by the shutdown of businesses and activities.
According to data compiled by the Senate Finance Committee, June revenue collection of $506.73 million exceeded the monthly projection of $468.66 million by $37.51 million.
That follows budget shortfalls of $192.27 million in April and $37.65 million in May. Without the infusion of federal funding, June would have seen a budget deficit of $19.49 million.
By technically finishing June in the black, that shrunk the state’s 2019-20 budget shortfall to $198.78 million. The budget year ended Tuesday.
On Tuesday, Gov. Jim Justice signed executive orders transferring $198 million of unappropriated state funds, and using most of an annual $70 million start-of-the-budget-year bridge loan from the state Rainy Day emergency reserve fund, to close out the budget year with a balanced budget, as is required under the West Virginia Constitution.
“We ran across the finish line in West Virginia with a surplus in the year of the god-awfulest pandemic in the history of the world,” Justice commented during his daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday. “That in itself may be the biggest accomplishment we’ve ever pulled off.”
Closing out the budget year didn’t go off without a hitch, though.
As of Wednesday morning, state coffers were missing $1.375 million — an amount Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said officials were attempting to locate Wednesday afternoon.
“There’s no explanation we’ve been able to come up with,” he said.
Justice, who last week forced state Public Health Officer Dr. Cathy Slemp to resign after a clerical error overreported the number of active COVID-19 cases in West Virginia, on Wednesday dismissed the missing $1.375 million as a “slight, little technical issue.”
“In the scope of things, it’s absolutely nothing, but at the same time, we always want it to be right,” Justice said. “These are the kind of mistakes we don’t want to see happen.”
As of Wednesday evening, the error had not been resolved.
Otherwise, for the month of June, sales tax collection exceeded expectations, coming in $10.33 million ahead of estimates, at $161.09 million.
Because sales taxes are remitted to the government a month after they are collected, the numbers reflect May sales activity, as more and more businesses started to reopen and as many West Virginians had the opportunity to spend federal stimulus checks and enhanced unemployment benefits.
The other key pillar of state tax revenue, personal income taxes, underperformed in June, with $180.39 million coming in $29.14 million short of estimates.
Meanwhile, severance taxes continued to struggle as the pandemic further devastated weak coal and natural gas markets. June collection of $18.9 million was $17.9 million below estimates, bringing in just 51% of expected revenue.
For the 2019-20 budget year, overall severance tax collection of $267.05 million was $93.19 million below estimates. Severance tax collection fell 42% from the 2018-19 collection of $462.45 million.