By PHIL KABLER
A downturn in collections of the two main pillars of the state tax base, income and sales taxes, caused March revenue collections to miss estimates by $3.8 million, according to a news release Tuesday evening from the Governor's Office.
March collections of $330 million marked the second time in three months that monthly revenue collections have come up short. January revenue collections missed estimates by $3.1 million.
The trend seems consistent with projections made by Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow, who had projected a slowdown in revenue growth in the second half of the 2018-19 budget year, in part as natural gas pipeline construction projects around the state are completed.
Gov. Jim Justice, in a statement, expressed confidence in the strength of the state economy, stating, "Overall, our numbers continue to be great across the board and are far better than anything we could have even dreamed of back before I walked through the door."
He added, "The reality is that every month we're doing better than we did in that month a year ago and at the end of the day I'm confident we're going to be incredibly happy with this year as a whole."
Year-to-date, the state has taken in a total of $3.29 billion in tax collections, up $23.3 million over estimates and 11 percent over the same point last year.
March income tax collections of $123.2 million missed estimates by $13.1 million and were also nearly 4 percent below March 2018 collections.
The release cited an $8.2 million increase in state income tax refunds, as well as a sharp downturn in non-resident payroll withholding taxes, down $7.8 million from March 2018.
That downturn would be consistent with a slowdown in pipeline construction, which uses large numbers of out-of-state employees.
Sales tax collections of $99.9 million missed estimates by $2.4 million. In the release, Justice blamed the drop on a "seasonal drop off in outdoor construction activities."
Sales taxes are remitted to the state a month after they are collected, meaning that March sales taxes reflect activity from February.
One category that remained strong in March was severance tax collections, boosted, according to the release, by coal exports and stable natural gas prices.
Severance tax collections of $39.8 million exceeded estimates by $7.5 million.
Unlike past months, Justice did not have a news conference on the monthly revenue report, with Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy and Muchow available for questions.
As of Tuesday evening, the revenue report had not been posted on the state Budget Office website.