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Posted: July 14, 2011 7:05 a.m.

State tax revenue beats projections

ATLANTA - Georgia's economy showed fresh signs of life on Wednesday as tax collections for the fiscal year that ended June 30 beat budget projections, allowing the state to begin to restock its rainy day fund.

State money managers reported on Wednesday that tax collections are up 8 percent from the previous year, an increase of $1.1 billion. That's above the projected growth of 4 percent for the year.

The increase was fueled by a 9 percent rise in individual income tax collections, and a nearly 7 percent increase in net sales tax collections. Corporate income tax revenues dipped 2 percent for the year.

"The upward movement in Georgia's revenue numbers is a clear indication that our state can and will advance as long as we continue the practice of maintaining a fiscally conservative state budget," Gov. Nathan Deal said in a statement.

The extra cash will be used to bolster the state's reserve fund, depleted by the recession.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said the state expects to put between $250 million and $310 million into the fund.

"We're woefully short in reserves," Jack Hill, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee said Wednesday. What's in the rainy day fund would only pay state bills for about a week, he said.

The state's overall budget is about $18 billion, down from a high of more than $21 billion before the economic downturn.

But while state coffers show signs of rebounding, the state's unemployment rate of 9.8 percent remains above the national average of 9.1 percent

State Fiscal Economist Kenneth Heaghney, of Georgia State University, said jobless rates traditionally lag behind other signs of economic recovery and it could be some time still before unemployment posts significant improvement.

"The growth we've seen is very moderate," he said. "It's a slow steady improvement."

Heagheney said the most encouraging signs in the year-end revenue figures are within the individual income tax returns. Withholding taxes have grown every month, meaning wages and the number of employed rising. There has also been an uptick in estimated tax payments, meaning self-employed professionals, like doctors and lawyers, are seeing business come back.

In June, revenues ticked up by 6.2 percent compared with June 2010. That's a jump of $87.5 million and marks the 12th consecutive month that revenues have improved.

 

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