Tax and Budget

In the coming months, legislators in almost every state will be grappling with writing a new budget. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), 47 states will enact a new budget for fiscal year 2018, while the three remaining states (Kentucky, Virginia and Wyoming) have previously enacted budgets that cover both fiscal years 2017 and 2018. Among those 47 states, most – 30 – will pass an annual budget, while 17 will authorize a two-year (biennial) budget that will cover both fiscal year 2018 and 2019. Note that for 46 states, fiscal year 2018 will begin on July 1, 2017. Alabama (Oct. 1), Michigan (Oct. 1), New York (Apr. 1) and Texas (Sept. 1) are the exceptions.  Most state legislatures adopt their new budgets in the spring.  

According to the National Association of State Budget Officers’ Fall 2016 Fiscal Survey of the States, most states are seeing weaker revenue conditions from 2016 carrying into fiscal 2017. At the time of data collection, 24 states reported general fund revenues for fiscal 2017 were coming in below forecast, while 16 states were on target and four states were above forecast. 

Check out our ongoing coverage of state budgets in 2017 HERE.

“The economy is sluggish and we don’t know what to expect from the federal government. We’ve got some tough times ahead,” Brian Sigritz, Director of State Fiscal Studies for the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) told Fiscal and Economic Development Committee members last week during CSG’s National Conference in Williamsburg, VA. “There’s really just not enough money to go around.” 

CSG Midwest
One long-standing, widespread state strategy to collect debt has been the use of offset programs — ensuring that any pending payments to individuals or entities (tax refunds, for example) are used to cover their delinquent obligations.
In fiscal year 2015, for example, Iowa’s Offset Program collected $47.2 million in debt, a 162 percent increase from FY 2006. Two primary factors have contributed to this increase in debt recovery. First, certain casino winnings must now be used to pay an individual’s debt. (Other offsets can come from tax refunds, lottery winnings, and payments to vendors for goods and services.) Second, Iowa allows local governments to participate in the program. This local involvement also takes place in states such as Kansas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

A new annotated reference guide to state budgets, financial reports, and fiscal analyses - State Budget Sources: An Annotated Guide to State Budgets, Financial Reports, and Fiscal Analyses, from the Volcker Alliance - is now available online. The report is designed to help public officials, policy advocates, journalists, academics, and concerned citizens fully understand the critical fiscal decisions that governors and legislators must make.

According to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 Annual Survey of State Government Tax Collections, state government tax revenue increased 4.8 percent from fiscal year 2014 to fiscal year 2015 – growing from $875.0 billion to $916.5 billion. It’s the fifth consecutive year states have seen their tax revenue grow.

There are not many questions of public policy that economists widely agree upon. The benefits of free trade, negative impacts of rent controls, and the infeasibility of returning to a gold standard, are a few.  Add to that list the use of tax-exempt municipal bonds to subsidize the construction of professional sports complexes, a practice that 85% of surveyed economists disagree with.

Natural resource extraction is a key component of many Western states’ economies and often generates a sizeable share of state revenue. However, natural resources are finite, the price of energy commodities is increasingly unpredictable, and revenues are volatile and tough for state forecasters to accurately predict. As a result, many states have created severance tax-based sovereign wealth funds to set aside a share of today’s revenue in order to generate investment earnings for state use in the future. This free CSG eCademy features Patrick Murray of The Pew Charitable Trusts, who presents findings and policy recommendations from a new research brief, including challenges and opportunities for state policymakers in energy-producing states.

Maybe, but not as soon as Gov. Bentley had hoped.

On Tuesday, Aug. 23, the Alabama House failed to allow a committee meeting to move forward in time to get the lottery proposal, as a constitutional amendment, on the Nov. 8 general election ballot, according to media coverage by AL.com.

Econ Piggy

In 2016, shoppers in 17 states will have the opportunity to purchase certain items free of sales tax on what are known as sales tax holidays. Widely popular with consumers, sales tax holidays are often pitched as a win-win for everyone; spurring further local economic growth while giving taxpayers’ pocketbooks some much needed relief. Recent findings, however, suggest that these holidays are often ineffective fiscal tools.

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