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State brings in less tax revenue

MONTPELIER — Gov. Phil Scott’s administration says tax receipts fell by a whopping 10 percent in April.
Personal income taxes were down by $25 million in the biggest tax collection month of the year.
Susanne Young, the secretary of the Agency of Administration, says while March receipts were strong — the state was $18 million ahead of projects — the shortfall in April puts the state in the hole.
Overall revenues for the general fund are down $3.55 million for the first 10 months of the fiscal year, which means lawmakers must find a way to fill that gap as they finalize the budget.
“The lower-than-expected tax receipts in April coupled with relatively flat receipts in Meals and Rooms and Sales and Use taxes with only two months left in the fiscal year is a concern. I will not be surprised to see a revenue downgrade in July as new consensus targets are established,” Young said in a statement.
The state revenue forecast for fiscal year 2017 was downgraded by $24.6 million in January because of a drop in corporate tax receipts.
That issue could continue to dog the state through the end of the year on June 30. Current tax receipt tallies don’t take into account about $16 million in corporate tax refund requests that could be paid out in the next few months.
State revenues have grown slowly during the recovery from the Great Recession. In the past three years, economic projections have been slightly higher than actual revenues. Consequently, downgrades have become routine.
General fund growth year over year for fiscal year 2016 and fiscal year 2017 is 0.3 percent, according to Scott administration figures.
Gov. Scott sees the negative revenue report as an opportunity to hammer home his message to lawmakers that Vermont faces significant economic challenges.
Scott insists that he will not “walk away” from $26 million worth of savings from a statewide teachers health care contract at a time when budgets are tight.
The revenue report for April, he said, “is concerning.”
“This trend we’re seeing right now April usually tells a lot in terms of how the state is doing,” Scott said.
The governor said, “You can’t tell anything by one month, but if the trend continues we’re getting down to the end of the fiscal year, and we have two months left to go … and if this trend continues we will be in trouble by the end of the year. What happens then is you have to rebase the budget.”
Scott late last week said that makes budget negotiations right now even more critical.
Lawmakers on Friday hoped that the Legislature would adjourn on Saturday.

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