Georgia state revenue continues its upward trend

A few days ago, the state of Georgia released the revenue figures for April March.

You can go straight to the PDF: “March revenue growth tops 10%”. I’m a little tired of the overly hyped headlines (and this is only the second one). Yes, the bottom line showed revenues in March up 10.7% from March 2010, but the total sales tax revenue collected often does not gibe with the local sales tax distributions. (A Savannah city official complained to me years ago about the inconsistencies and the lack of explanations about them from the Dept. of Revenue.) In March 2010, 50.4% of the gross sales tax revenue was returned to local municipalities (that’s higher than makes logical sense I think), while in March 2011, 46.9% was returned. That makes the bottom line for sales tax “revenue” look better than the gross revenue; the gross revenue is probably a better indication of the condition of Georgia’s economy. Still, the year-over-year increase of 7.9% in gross sales tax revenue is pretty impressive, as is the 12.5% increase in individual income tax. (Individual income taxes and sales taxes are by far the biggest sources of state revenue.)

And these peppy monthly press releases never seem to refer to the year when revenues peaked. In 2006 (five years ago!), Georgia generated $463,418,000 in individual income taxes in March, compared to $388,090,000 in March 2011. Gross sales tax receipts in March 2007 were $878,658,000, compared to $781,251,000 in March 2011.

The recession thumped Georgia pretty hard, and it could easily be 2013 or later before revenues, which are good measures of the economy generally, are back to their peaks of the last decade. If we were adjusting for inflation, it would take even longer.