By Charlie Arlinghaus

May 2011

With ten of the twelve months of revenue collected for Fiscal Year 2011, revenues are on track to be $54.6 million short of the budgeted amount. The shortfall will not only require action to balance the last budget but also reduces the base used to project revenue growth for the 2012-13 budget currently under consideration.

Revenue collections for the current fiscal year have been falling further behind the estimates used in the last budget. After the April numbers were reported, some analyses have compared revenues to the month-by-month plan. A better assessment uses historical averages to avoid having to make a judgment about the accuracy of the month-by-month projection.

Historical Averaging Methodology

The chart below compares the major categories of state revenue with the historical collection amount. For example, Meals & Rooms Tax revenues were $199.4 million through the first ten months of the year. Historically, the ten-month total for that tax is 81.9% of the final collection. If this total is 81.9% of the final, we are on track to collect $235.4 million which is $9.6 million below the budgeted amount.

The table combines BET and BPT collections into “business taxes.” Because the two are not separate taxes but linked to each other, projections are more accurate when the two are combined. The list also includes a similar projection for the combines other categories of revenue which are not calculated separately. The insurance and statewide property taxes and Medicaid enhancement revenue are discussed following the table.

Tax Source April 2011 Historical Average Projected Total Budgeted amount Difference
Business Taxes 392.7 .819[1] 479.5 503.0 (23.5)
Meals & Rooms Tax 199.4 .847 235.4 245.0 (  9.6)
Tobacco Tax 192.3 .822 233.9 220.6 +13.3
Liquor Revenue 102.2 .831 123.0 127.9 (  4.9)
Interest & Dividends Tax   65.9 .846   77.9   90.1 (12.2)
Real Estate Transfer Tax   67.2 .832   80.8   89.2 (  8.4)
Other Sources[2] 314.9 .808[3] 389.7 386.5 +  3.4

These seven categories add up to a projected budget shortfall for the first of the two budget years of $41.9 million. To this total we need to add estimates for the Insurance Tax, Medicaid enhancement revenue, and the Statewide Property Tax. There is seeming broad agreement that the two Medicaid enhancement sources will end the fiscal year short by a combined $14.2 million.

Insurance receipts are more or less complete and will likely end the year $1.5 million ahead of budget. The Statewide Property Tax will be right at the budgeted amount. The SPT is set at a fixed amount not a rate so it isn’t an estimate that varies.

Revenue Shortfall for Fiscal Year 2011Combining the seven-source estimate with the other three sources, the state is currently on track to be $54.6 million short of its budgeted revenue in FY2011. That total would reflect a drop of 1.6% below the levels of FY2010

How this Estimate Will be Wrong

Using historical averages gives us an estimate of each tax but the actual performance will vary a point or two from the average. What is most likely is that some taxes will end just higher and some just lower than average so the variations will be smoothed out. Nonetheless, this projection is not meant to predict an exact number. What is most likely is that revenues will finish the year close to $54.6 million behind barring any unusual event (like last year’s surprise windfall of $32.1 million which caused the June revenues to be revised dramatically in the accrual statement).

Impact on the Budget Debate

The revenue numbers for Fiscal Year 2011 are more important than just as a look back at the prior year. The current budget being debated must balance any shortfall from the prior year. In addition, the FY11 numbers are used as base for the estimates of growth in 2012 and 2013. As such, any change in the 2011 number has a threefold impact as it affects each of 2011, 2012, and 2013.

The governor’s original estimates in his February 15, 2011 budget address and the numbers used by the House of Representatives in the version of the budget it passed in March are $307 million apart[4]. Half the difference is explained by a difference in the 2011 number and therefore a lower base for 2012 and 2013. If the FY2011 shortfall is $54 million not zero, then the economic projections for the following years are built off a lower base. The shortfall plus the lower base would make a total difference of $162 million. The rest of the difference is a result of the governor using optimistic economic predictions for 2012 and 2013 and the House using pessimistic ones.

Muted recovery

The lower revenue for FY 2011 would leave the revenues used to finance the general and education funds 1.6% below the FY2010 level. While declines in total revenue are rare, a 1.6% decline is a slight improvement over the 3.5% drop the prior year and the 10.5% decline in 2009. Although we are still well below the ten-year average growth for FY2001-FY2010 of 1.45%. The weak performance for FY2011 suggests that the economic recovery is somewhat muted in terms of its impact on state revenues. As such, growth estimates going forward should remain cautious.

[1] The business tax average is for the years 2001-2009. FY 2010 included what an unusual $32.1 in extension payments which caused a dramatic revision of the June number. Regular collections absent the unusual event were in line with the 2001-09 historical average.

[2] For comparison with the state’s monthly revenue reports, “other sources” as defined here includes the communications tax, court fines & fees, securities revenue, utility consumption tax, board & care revenue, beer tax, racing & games of chance, gambling winnings tax, transfers from lottery commission, transfers from racing & charitable gaming, tobacco settlement, utility property tax, and “other.”

[3] For the category of other taxes, the historical average is for the years 2006-2010. The trend has been consistent over the last five years but not for before that. Using a ten-year average would significantly exaggerate the projected amount of shortfall.

[4] The estimates used by the House and Governor treat a Meals and Rooms Tax change differently. The last budget dedicated a portion of that revenue to a specific debt service payment. Both budgets acknowledge the law change in expenditures but the governor’s budget includes that revenue in his general fund revenue estimates while the House doesn’t. The change amounts to $5m in FY2011, $14.6m in FY2012, and $14.4m in FY2013. To make the revenue numbers comparable to each other and to the state monthly revenue updates, this analysis includes the dedicated revenue in the general fund totals.

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