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Leftover Money

Sue Lincoln

There’s good state financial news, for a change.

“Revenue is finally exceeding – slightly – the forecast.”

After Governor John Bel Edwards made that statement on his monthly radio show Wednesday, it was confirmed during Thursday’s Revenue Estimating Conference meeting.

“The State General Fund actual collection for FY 17 was $143.2-million over the projected collection,” Division of Administration fiscal analyst Manfred Dix announced. But he also advised, “Keep in mind that this is only the revenue side of the equation.”

Accountants still have to complete their audit of state spending during the fiscal year that ended June 30th.

The majority of the bump -- $100-million -- came from personal income tax and sales tax. Dix says sales tax collections in particular  jumped substantially from FY 2016 to FY 2017.

“The increase was about 30-percent. But we passed the penny sales tax which was a 25-percent increase in the tax.”

And, he warned, the good news isn’t going to last.

“We have the fiscal cliff situation, which has the penny sales tax fall off by June 30th, 2018.”

All the so-called “temporary” tax changes lawmakers enacted in early 2016 expire at that time, as well, leaving a better-than-a-billion-dollar gap in the next budget. 

What about the extra money from this past fiscal year, you ask? As the governor says, can’t use it.

“The constitution limits what you can do with a surplus,” Governor Edwards says. ”You can fund the Rainy Day account. You can fund the unfunded accrued liability with it. You can do capital construction projects. You can defease debt.”