State revenue up slightly in November


LITTLE ROCK — Tax collections in Arkansas were 1.3 percent above forecast in November and 3.2 percent above collections a year ago, the state’s fiscal office reported Tuesday.

“We’re right on track,” said Richard Weiss, director of the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, noting the revenue projections were revised upward in mid-November by nearly $100 million.

“Remember this is off the new forecast so now our target is not only financing the entire budget but also having almost a $100 million surplus,” Weiss said. “Everything is pretty much as we are expecting it at this point. We’re up, we have forecast a moderate recovery that is ongoing and it looks like we’re well on that path if we don’t have something weird happen.”

Net available revenues totaled $350.6 million in November, $4.6 million or 1.3 percent above the monthly forecast, and $7.9 million or 2.3 percent above last year.

The increases were mainly driven by individual income tax collections, up 4.8 percent compared to last year, the state’s fiscal office said.

Sales and use taxes, including automobile sales tax, were up compared to last year but down slightly below the monthly forecast.

On Nov. 15, state fiscal officers presented Gov. Mike Beebe’s proposed a $4.9 billion general revenue budget for the next fiscal year that includes a further reduction in the state sales tax on groceries that would be contingent upon a decline in the state’s budget obligations.

Under the proposed budget, the sales tax on groceries would be reduced from one-and-a-half cents to one-eighth of a cent per dollar spent. The reduction would be triggered when certain budget obligations, including desegregation payments to three Pulaski County school districts and payments on certain bonds, decline by at least $35 million for six consecutive months.

The grocery tax was 6 percent when Beebe took office in 2007. He successfully has pushed for gradual decreases in the tax during each regular session. His new proposal wold eliminate the tax except for a portion that can be changed only by amending the state constitution.

For November, sales tax collections totaled $173.2 million, $600,000 or 0.4 percent below the monthly forecast, and $6.3 million or 3.8 percent above last year.

Individual income tax collections totaled $192.5 million, $4.9 million or 2.6 percent above forecast, and $8.8 million or 4.8 percent above last year. Individual withholding rose 4.8 percent compared to last year.

“The good news on it really is that withholdings are up, which means people are working,” said Beebe, who was in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to meet with President Obama as part of a National Governors Association executive committee delegation.

Corporate income tax collections totaled $10.6 million, $900,000 or 7.4 percent below forecast and $500,000 or 4.7 percent above last year.