CHARLESTON — A combination of Gov. Jim Justice rolling back revenue estimates and state Treasurer John Perdue transferring $20 million from his accounts helped put West Virginia revenue collection in the black for January —avoiding what otherwise would have been a $13 million shortfall for the month.
With the $20 million infusion from the Treasurer’s Office — from unclaimed property and banking services surpluses — the state collected a total of $437.53 million, exceeding a reduced revenue estimate of $424.54 million by $12.99 million, according to data provided Monday by the Senate Finance Committee and the State Auditor’s Office.
Justice and Perdue held a news conference Jan. 13 to announce the $20 million in transfers, with Justice noting, “That will surely help us ... trying to get right-side up. Year-to-date, we’re still tailing a little behind.”
Four days earlier, Justice had reduced revenue estimates for the current 2019-20 budget year by $16.5 million — equal to the amount of unappropriated funds carried over from the 2018-19 budget year.
That reduced January revenue estimates by $6 million, and will reduce April revenue estimates by $10.5 million.
Without the $20 million infusion and the $6 million reduction in estimates, January revenue would have come up $13.01 million short, as personal income tax and severance tax collection continue to miss revenue goals.
Even with the adjustments, year-to-date revenue collection of $2.64 billion is still running $2.05 million below estimates.
January personal income tax collection of $222.24 million missed estimates by $1.95 million. Year-to-date collection of $1.19 billion is falling $35.57 million below estimates.
Continued low natural gas prices and low coal prices and production dragged down severance tax collection. January collection of $20.36 million missed estimates by $834,654.
Year-to-date severance tax collection of $156.42 million is $38.63 million, or 24.6 percent, below estimates.
January sales tax collection — which reflect December retail sales — was a bright spot, though. At $128.41 million, the collection topped estimates by $1.21 million. However, year-to-date sales tax collection of $811.54 million is running $1.62 million below estimates.
“Our numbers continue to show that West Virginia is in good financial health, pacing very close to last year’s record-breaking numbers,” Justice said in a prepared statement. “That said, we must continue to be conservative in our budgeting, so I encourage the Legislature to continue monitoring these numbers, just like (Revenue) Secretary (Dave) Hardy and I will.”
In a news release, the Governor’s Office stated, “The monthly surplus was due to stronger than expected collections for the Corporation Net Income Tax, Miscellaneous Receipts, Interest Income and Consumer Sales Tax. Receipts from these four sources were collectively $30 million above estimate for the month.”
Justice did not specifically cite the $20 million transfer from the Treasurer’s Office.
On the Senate floor Monday, Senate Minority Leader Roman Prezioso, D-Marion, chided Justice for using what he called “voodoo economics” to reduce budget deficits, at least on paper.
“It’s amazing. We don’t print money, but the governor can play around with the estimates any way he wants to,” Prezioso said. “The governor, in his State of the State, painted a very rosy picture, but yet, when we see the numbers, it’s a totally different story.”