State revenue collections cleared a low bar for July, coming in $28.1 million above estimated tax collections of just $277.68 million — the lowest revenue estimate for any month since February 2018.
The $305.8 million of tax collections were down 38%, or $189.5 million, from June revenue collections of $495.3 million, and were $178.16 million less than the $483.96 million the state took in for July 2020 — a month that benefited from having a delayed income tax filing deadline.
July income tax collections of $141.78 million beat estimates by $14.68 million, but were down $134.62 million from July 2020 collections.
It also marked a $14.49 million decline from June 2021 income tax collections of $156.27 million.
The other key pillar of state tax collections, sales taxes, came up short in July, with collections of $89.78 million falling short of estimates by $4.62 million, or about 5%.
Since sales taxes are remitted to the state a month after they are collected, the July taxes reflect June sales. On June 19, Gov. Jim Justice cut off federal enhanced unemployment benefits of $300 a week.
While Justice acknowledged at the time that cutting off the benefits 11 weeks early would cost the state economy a total of $150 million, he defended his decision as a way to help state employers fill job vacancies.
The July downturn in sales tax revenue follows strong sales tax collections in May ($149.83 million) and June ($175.75 million), months likely also reflecting enhanced consumer spending spurred by $1,400 federal pandemic stimulus checks issued in the spring.
While July revenue collections were effectively graded on a curve, Justice crowed about them during the state COVID-19 briefing Monday.
“The net of the whole thing, great month, great work by our revenue people,” he said.
Justice noted that it was just two years ago that the state opened the 2019-20 budget year with a budget shortfall for July.
Ironically, state revenue collections for July 2019 of $284.68 million exceeded July 2021 revenue estimates but came up $32.97 million short of the $317.65 million goal for that month.
Justice on Monday also touted severance tax revenue that came in 95.8% higher than July 2020 collections.
“This is our coal miners going back to work. This is our gas people working and everything,” he said.
What Justice failed to point out is that in July 2020, severance tax collections posted losses of $6.69 million as state payments to localities exceeded total tax collections for the month.
To put the July 2021 severance tax collections of $3.42 million in perspective, when President Barack Obama left office in January 2017, state severance tax collections for the month were $37.28 million.
Other key taxes that missed revenue estimates for July were business and occupation taxes of $7.84 million, 29% below estimates of $11 million, and tobacco taxes of $14.51 million, which fell $290,000 below estimates.