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MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

General revenue collections above Republican projections

March 08, 2004
By: Sara Bondioli
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - State revenue collections were higher than House Republican leadership expected as the Revenue Department released February numbers.

General revenue collections released by the department Friday are up 7.8 percent over last year at this time.

However, Budget Director Linda Luebbering said Gov. Bob Holden will wait to make a decision on releasing money he is withholding.

The governor's withholdings include $118 million from lower education and $12 million from higher education.

"What the governor has said all along is that we have to be very careful and cautious about the potential for a lot higher refunds during tax season, and we really won't know the extent of that until sometime after April 15," Luebbering said.

Luebbering said she expects changes to the federal tax code, which impacts state taxes, to result in larger refunds the state owes to Missourians. Larger refunds would reduce the state's revenue.

House Budget Committee Chairman Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles, said he expected February's revenue numbers to turn out lower than they did because of increased refunds.

"We've already paid out more refunds to date than we did this time last year and the refund amounts are higher. We anticipated that," he said.

Excluding one-time federal money, general revenue collections were up 5.5 percent for the year in January and 5.4 percent in February. Bearden said he expects numbers to drop in March.

"What we saw in February was a very strong sales tax picture and also a very strong individual income tax collection month, so that obviously offset the refund growth," he said.

Bearden said the numbers show ongoing economic recovery.

"You would find a very difficult time, barring a catastrophe, showing that we would be able to lose or not collect enough money to really send our budget into a spiral," he said.

Luebbering said the full impact of refunds won't be clear until tax filing season ends in April.

Bearden said the governor will likely not release the withholdings until after April because doing so could cause tax levies to fail in the 114 school districts that have placed them on the ballot.

He said withholding funds until after April could also impact teacher contracts that are usually made before that time.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair John Russell, R-Lebanon, said schools have already made adjustments for this budget year so releasing the withholdings probably wouldn't affect them immediately, although schools would appreciate the additional money.

"Most of the school districts would simply put the money in the bank because they've already made the budget for the year in which they're in," he said.

Erin Israel contributed to this report.