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Strong sales tax collection pushes February state revenue into the black -- barely

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West Virginia revenue collection finished in the black for February, topping estimates by $1.68 million, or 1 percent, even though personal income taxes and severance taxes fell short of projections for the month, an analysis Monday from the Senate Finance Committee shows.

Total tax collection of $299.45 million for February squeezed past estimates of $297.76 million, reducing the year-to-date state budget shortfall for the 2019-20 budget year to $18.7 million.

Overall revenue collection through the first eight months of the 2019-20 budget year totals $2.94 billion.

A bright spot for the month was consumer sales taxes, which, at $110.3 million, topped estimates of $105.1 million by $5.2 million, or 5 percent.

Sales taxes are remitted to the state a month after they are collected, meaning that February collection represents January retail and internet sales. That helped offset losses in personal income taxes, which fell $7.87 million short of estimates, with $95.82 million in collections, a 7.6 percent shortfall.

Year-to-date collection of income taxes — one of the two major pillars of state tax collection — of $1.29 billion is running $43.44 million behind estimate.

The other major pillar, sales taxes, is running $3.58 million ahead of estimates, at $921.8 million.

Severance taxes continued to struggle in February, the result of low natural gas prices and declining coal prices and production. February’s collection of $26.2 million fell $7.45 million short of estimates, a 22 percent shortfall.

Year-to-date severance tax collection of $182.63 million is running $46.07 million, or 20 percent, below estimates.

At this point in 2019, the state government had collected $281.06 million in severance taxes for the budget year, meaning collection is down 35 percent — $97.46 million — so far this year.

A number of less-publicized taxes helped keep state revenue collection out of the red in February.

Insurance tax collection of $18.45 million topped estimates by $3.65 million, or nearly 25 percent. Likewise, corporate net and business franchise taxes brought in $3.26 million in a month when the state was projected to have a net loss of $2 million in that category through tax refunds.

In January, Gov. Jim Justice reduced revenue estimates for the month by $6 million, and state Treasurer John Perdue transferred $20 million in surplus funds in the Treasurer’s Office to the general revenue fund, turning what would have been a $13 million shortfall for the month into a $13 million surplus.

The revenue figures were released by the Senate Finance Committee staff Monday, as the House of Delegates and Senate begin work on reconciling House and Senate versions of the 2020-21 state budget bills. Those budget plans reduce general revenue spending from the current $4.693 billion because of projected drops in revenue in the upcoming budget year.

Reach Phil Kabler at, 304-348-1220

or follow @PhilKabler on Twitter.

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Alford, Virginia - 11 a.m., Apple Grove Memorial Gardens.

Gibson, Harold - 1 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Humphreys Sr., Randall - 2:30 p.m., Ward Road Cemetery, Nettie.

Jackson, Shirley - 1 p.m., Bollinger Funeral Home, Charleston.

Laudermilt, Darlene - 7 p.m., Foglesong - Casto Funeral Home, Mason.

Nichols, Sharon - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Sammons, Anthony - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Tucker, Denver - 3 p.m., Rayne Funeral Home, Eleanor Chapel.