Barbour Calls for Prudence Amid Lagging Revenue | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Barbour Calls for Prudence Amid Lagging Revenue


Gov. Haley Barbour will give his annual State of the State address tonight.

State tax collections fell below already lowered expectations in July, Gov. Haley Barbour announced yesterday in a statement urging state agencies to be cautious with their budgets.

"We cannot ignore the fact that revenues continue to fall below our expectations," Barbour said in the statement. "State agencies must spend tax dollars responsibly and keep in mind that cuts may be needed in the current fiscal year."

The State Tax Commission released data for July 2009, the first month of the new fiscal year, yesterday. General fund collections were $26.2 million, roughly 11 percent below projections from the budget state lawmakers approved in June. The lagging July collections come on the heel of bad news from June, the last month of the previous fiscal year. In June, state general fund collections fell $73 million below estimates, putting the state's yearly collections at $384 million short of the 2008 budget projection.

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner said today that the governor is not planning any budget cuts based on the July numbers.

"(July) was well below expectations, but at the same time, you don't want to make a knee-jerk reaction," Turner said. "If next month's numbers are trending up, it would be some indication that if cuts were necessary, they wouldn't need to be so deep."

Tax Commission spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury told the Jackson Free Press that budget estimates for the new fiscal year already accounted for some decreases. Projected collections for this year are $4.7 billion, while officials estimated $5 billion for the previous year. The decreased revenue was not concentrated in any one sector.

"It's pretty much across the board," Waterbury said.

Hard economic times are good for a few sectors of the economy, though. Alcohol tax collections slightly surpassed estimates, Waterbury added.

"Hard liquor was actually up a little bit," she said. "We are finding that the restaurants are not selling more, but package stores are selling more. And the quantity has gone up, but the quality has gone down."

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