state

HARRISBURG – State tax revenue through April is more than $800 million ahead of what government officials had projected, the Department of Revenue announced Wednesday.

Revenue collections for the month of April were more than $4.4 billion. That was $465 million more than the Department of Revenue’s official estimate for that month alone. Overall, for the 2018-19 fiscal year through April, the state’s revenue beat projections by $828.5 million, according to the Revenue Department.

The biggest gains were in sales and corporate taxes, according to the state Department of Revenue. Year-to-date sales tax collections total $9.2 billion – $273.9 million, or 3.1 percent, more than anticipated.

The improved sales tax was likely helped by the state’s move to capture more online sales tax. The state had projected that online sales tax would generate about $50 million, but it’s now expected to generate about $200 million, according to the Revenue Department.

Year-to-date corporation tax collections total $4.6 billion, which is $543.3 million, or 13.5 percent, above estimate.

The state’s fiscal year ends June 30. Republicans who control both chambers of the General Assembly said that with the boost, the state’s in better fiscal shape heading into the budget season that it’s been in at least a decade.

State Sen. Patrick Browne, R-Lehigh County, said the state’s strong fiscal position may be more reminiscent of the 1990s.

While acknowledging that the improvement comes as part of the nation’s economic recovery, Republican leaders said they deserve credit for refusing to back tax increased proposed by Wolf in the beginning of his first term. Wolf has also repeatedly sought a new tax on natural gas drilling, proposals that have not passed in the Legislature either.

Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre County, said that in previous recessions, the state had boosted its revenue by increasing taxes.

“We took a different approach,” he said. “Now we are seeing the benefit. When the economy turned around, we were prepared for it.”

Democrats countered that the state budget was passed with bipartisan support.

Governor Wolf is proud of his collaborative work with the General Assembly to balance the state budget,” said J.J. Abbott, a spokesman for the governor.

State Rep. Mark Longietti, D-Mercer County, said that the state is far from alone in seeing its budget condition improve. He pointed to a recent analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures that found that 31 states have reported that their sales tax collections are either exceeding expectations or on target.

He added that while the tax revenue has improved, the state still needs to grapple with the need to replace one-time funding sources, like the license fees from gambling expansion.

“I’m very pleased that our revenue is above projection,” Longietti said. “That doesn’t solve all of our problems.”

Members of both parties said they hope that the positive revenue news will mean that the state will be able to make another deposit into its rainy day fund. Last July, the state made a $22 million deposit into the fund, its first contribution in almost a decade.