In September, the third month of the 2019-20 budget year, West Virginia revenue collection finally ended up in the black, according to reports from the Governor’s Office and state Senate.
For the month, the state collected $477.27 million in revenue, coming in $20 million, or 4 percent, above estimates.
The positive revenue month cuts the state’s budget deficit year-to-date to $29.8 million, after revenue collection in July and August came up short of estimates.
Last week, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow told legislators to expect a bump in September, with the last day of August falling on a Saturday. He said that would push many taxes due on the last day of each month into September’s collection.
“I think the numbers in September will be closer to estimates than they are today,” he’d said. “That will help cut into the shortfall for the year-to-date.”
Of the two biggest sources of tax revenue, personal income tax collection of $477.27 million missed estimates by about $244,000, while sales tax collection of $125.82 million topped estimates by $1.62 million.
September’s severance tax collection of $33.91 million exceeded estimates by about $411,000.
However, a year-to-date severance tax collection of $59.25 million is running $26.4 million below estimates, a 31 percent shortfall.
Muchow last week blamed downturns in coal exports and natural gas prices, along with court actions halting construction of two major natural gas pipelines, for turning 12 percent revenue growth in 2018-19 into a deficit early in the 2019-20 budget year.
Gov. Jim Justice, in a statement released Tuesday, said of the revenue report, “More than anything, what this shows is that we always need to remember that we have to live within our means. Last year, we set an all-time record for the greatest one-year revenue growth in the history of our state.”
Justice, who last year frequently staged news conferences to announce strong revenue months, sometimes with flower leis for participants, had not put out releases during the down months.
Beginning in June, though, in the midst of a leadership feud with Justice, the Senate began preemptively releasing state revenue reports. On Tuesday morning, the two parties effectively raced to release the September report, with the Governor’s Office getting the jump by about 45 minutes.
In his statement Tuesday, Justice said, “Naturally, we were bound for a dip eventually. We saw our numbers turn around for the good again here in September. But, if nothing else, our first quarter this year shows that we have to continue to err on the side of caution.”