MONTPELIER — Lawmakers grappling with how much revenue they need to raise in the coming fiscal year got some welcome news Friday: an unexpected boost in April tax collections of nearly $27 million.
A significant share of the money — $8 million to $12 million — is expected to go back out in tax refunds, and lawmakers had already made plans last year for any surplus that materialized in the fiscal year that ends June 30.
But they’re also in the midst of trying to work out taxing and spending plans for the next fiscal year. The extra revenue should make the process somewhat easier, said both Steve Klein, chief of the Legislature’s Joint Fiscal Office, and members of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Both Klein and House Speaker Shap Smith said it’s too early to say how much stock should be placed in the future strength of tax collections. Preliminary figures show that April personal income tax collections were $32.2 million above what was forecast in January. But Klein cautioned that sales and use tax revenues, a good indicator of consumer activity, came in short of their forecast by 10 percent.
“It’s not a picture of an economy rebounding,” he said.
Klein said recent federal tax law changes may be prompting some high earners to report higher incomes in 2012, shifting some income from the 2013 federal tax year, when rates will be higher.
But he joined Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, in saying the extra money might make negotiations easier between the House and Senate conferees to resolve differences in the two chambers’ tax plans.
The House is looking to raise $27 million in new revenues, while the Senate is eyeing $9.4 million in new taxes, with a key difference being that the House wants to put more money into the state’s reserve funds.
Budget provisions passed last year said that half of theextra money in this fiscal year would go to reduce property taxes, and a quarter each would go into a reserve fund and to offset cuts in federal funding. Friday’s preliminary revenue figures appear to mean there’s money to support the House goal of beefing up reserves.
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