By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
The tax revenues that pay for Wyoming’s government programs are coming in a bit higher than predicted earlier this year, according to a state report.
An update on the state’s revenues prepared by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group showed that as of the end of March, income for the state’s “general fund,” the main bank account used to pay for state operations, was $45.5 million above what had been predicted in January.
In addition, revenues for the state’s “Budget Reserve Account,” an account used to provide funds for government agencies if money from the general fund runs short, has increased by $25.7 million over projections, the report said.
“Combined, revenue collections are $71.3 million ahead of pace or 6.2% higher than projected at this point in the fiscal year,” the report said.
The CREG is a group of fiscal analysts from various state agencies who track and predict state income. The group’s projections form the basis for the governor’s office and the Legislature as they prepare the state’s two-year budget.
After the Legislature approved a budget for the 2021-22 cycle in 2020, CREG predicted the state would run short of funds by up to $1.5 billion because of slumps in the state’s energy industry and business closures caused by the coronavirus that would reduce tax income.
Gov. Mark Gordon and the Legislature cut the state’s budget by more than $500 million to address the shortfall.
CREG updated its projections in January and predicted growth in some of the state’s tax revenue.
The report released Friday said revenues had grown even more than predicted in January, with sales and use tax collections for the state’s general fund exceeding projections by $18 million through the end of March to total $322.4 million, a 4% increase.
Those numbers could run even higher, the report said, thanks to federal coronavirus relief programs.
“Recent collections do not yet account for potentially increased consumer spending, stimulated by the most recent round of direct individual payments from the American Rescue Plan,” it said.
The biggest gain in sales taxes was from the retail sector, where collections actually exceeded collections by the same point last year by 1.8%.
However, sales taxes paid by the mining sector dropped by 61.4% from last year, the report said.
Despite the slump in the state’s energy industry, severance taxes paid to the state also exceeded projections by $13.6 million, about 10.8%, the report said. Revenues generated by oil production, natural gas production and trona production were all above earlier estimates.
Also topping projections were revenues for the state’s schools, which totaled $264.8 million through the end of March, $11.4 million over earlier estimates.
The report should only be seen as an update to revenue projections and will not be used to make any adjustments in the CREG’s earlier report, said Michael Swank, a senior fiscal analyst with the Legislative Service Office.