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December State Tax Collections Down

State of Tennessee Press Release, Jan 13, 2010:

NASHVILLE – The state’s fiscal year continues its trend of negative tax revenue growth, with tax collections falling below budgeted estimates again in December. Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz today announced that state revenue collections for December – reflecting November retail sales activity – were $766.7 million, which is $54.2 million less than the state budgeted.

“December tax collections represent the 19th consecutive month of negative sales tax growth,” Goetz said. “At the end of the fiscal year, on June 30, we’ll have to adjust for any under collection in the current fiscal year, and make sure our budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 reflects the revenue base available moving forward.”

On an accrual basis, December is the fifth month in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The general fund was under collected by $50.8 million and the four other funds were under collected by $3.4 million.

Sales tax collections were $16.6 million less than the estimate for December. The December growth rate was negative 2.88%. For five months revenues are under collected by $138.6 million, and the growth rate is negative 6.65%.

Franchise and excise taxes combined were $29.5 million below the budgeted estimate of $143.8 million. For five months revenues are under collected by $5.4 million.

Gasoline and motor fuel collections for December decreased by 2.70% and they were $4.3 million below the budgeted estimate of $66.7 million. For five months revenues are under collected by $9.9 million.

Tobacco tax collections were $5.6 million below the budgeted estimate of $25.7 million, and for five months they are $3.8 million above the budgeted estimate.

Inheritance and estate taxes were over collected by $2.6 million for the month.

All other taxes were under collected by a net of $800,000.

Year-to-date collections for five months were $169 million less than the budgeted estimate. The general fund was under collected by $147.1 million and the four other funds were under collected by $21.9 million.

The budgeted revenue estimates for 2009-2010 are based on the State Funding Board’s consensus recommendation adopted by the second session of the 106th General Assembly in May of 2009. and are available on the state’s Web site at http//www.tn.gov/finance/bud/budget.html.

http://news.tennesseeanytime.org/node/4428

December Revenues
Released on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 – 11:15 am under

* Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE – The state’s fiscal year continues its trend of negative tax revenue growth, with tax collections falling below budgeted estimates again in December. Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz today announced that state revenue collections for December – reflecting November retail sales activity – were $766.7 million, which is $54.2 million less than the state budgeted.

“December tax collections represent the 19th consecutive month of negative sales tax growth,” Goetz said. “At the end of the fiscal year, on June 30, we’ll have to adjust for any under collection in the current fiscal year, and make sure our budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 reflects the revenue base available moving forward.”

On an accrual basis, December is the fifth month in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The general fund was under collected by $50.8 million and the four other funds were under collected by $3.4 million.

Sales tax collections were $16.6 million less than the estimate for December.  The December growth rate was negative 2.88%. For five months revenues are under collected by $138.6 million, and the growth rate is negative 6.65%.

Franchise and excise taxes combined were $29.5 million below the budgeted estimate of $143.8 million. For five months revenues are under collected by $5.4 million.

Gasoline and motor fuel collections for December decreased by 2.70% and they were $4.3 million below the budgeted estimate of $66.7 million.  For five months revenues are under collected by $9.9 million.

Tobacco tax collections were $5.6 million below the budgeted estimate of $25.7 million, and for five months they are $3.8 million above the budgeted estimate.

Inheritance and estate taxes were over collected by $2.6 million for the month.

All other taxes were under collected by a net of $800,000.

Year-to-date collections for five months were $169 million less than the budgeted estimate. The general fund was under collected by $147.1 million and the four other funds were under collected by $21.9 million.

The budgeted revenue estimates for 2009-2010 are based on the State Funding Board’s consensus recommendation adopted by the second session of the 106th General Assembly in May of 2009. and are available on the state’s Web site at http//www.tn.gov/finance/bud/budget.html.http://news.tennesseeanytime.org/node/4428

December Revenues

Released on Wed, Jan 13, 2010 – 11:15 am under

* Finance and Administration

NASHVILLE – The state’s fiscal year continues its trend of negative tax revenue growth, with tax collections falling below budgeted estimates again in December. Finance and Administration Commissioner Dave Goetz today announced that state revenue collections for December – reflecting November retail sales activity – were $766.7 million, which is $54.2 million less than the state budgeted.

“December tax collections represent the 19th consecutive month of negative sales tax growth,” Goetz said. “At the end of the fiscal year, on June 30, we’ll have to adjust for any under collection in the current fiscal year, and make sure our budget for fiscal year 2010-2011 reflects the revenue base available moving forward.”

On an accrual basis, December is the fifth month in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.

The general fund was under collected by $50.8 million and the four other funds were under collected by $3.4 million.

Sales tax collections were $16.6 million less than the estimate for December. The December growth rate was negative 2.88%. For five months revenues are under collected by $138.6 million, and the growth rate is negative 6.65%.

Franchise and excise taxes combined were $29.5 million below the budgeted estimate of $143.8 million. For five months revenues are under collected by $5.4 million.

Gasoline and motor fuel collections for December decreased by 2.70% and they were $4.3 million below the budgeted estimate of $66.7 million. For five months revenues are under collected by $9.9 million.

Tobacco tax collections were $5.6 million below the budgeted estimate of $25.7 million, and for five months they are $3.8 million above the budgeted estimate.

Inheritance and estate taxes were over collected by $2.6 million for the month.

All other taxes were under collected by a net of $800,000.

Year-to-date collections for five months were $169 million less than the budgeted estimate. The general fund was under collected by $147.1 million and the four other funds were under collected by $21.9 million.

The budgeted revenue estimates for 2009-2010 are based on the State Funding Board’s consensus recommendation adopted by the second session of the 106th General Assembly in May of 2009. and are available on the state’s Web site at http//www.tn.gov/finance/bud/budget.html.

Categories
Business and Economy News Tax and Budget

Budget to Challenge Lawmakers’ Political Resolve

An estimated 100 million people across the country will vow this New Year to lose weight, quit smoking, start saving more money or stop some potentially destructive bad habit and begin a life-affirming new one, according to a recent study by Health Net, Inc.

But while some Tennessee lawmakers say they’re just trying to get through 2010 without making the burdens on Tennesseans any heavier than they already are, others have big spending plans even as the state’s bottom line is shrinking.

Sen. Douglas Henry, a Nashville Democrat, says his New Year’s resolution is to frame state laws that help Tennesseans live a “more complete life,” which includes more government aid for the poor and funding for children’s programs.

Rep. Mark Maddox, D-Dresden, says his resolution is the same as it was last year: get more money into the public school system.

But Hendersonville Rep. Debra Maggart, a Republican, says some of the projects and programs lawmakers want for their districts may not be wise or possible given the state’s cash-strapped fiscal environment.

Maggart says she plans to reserve her energy for pushing, in her view, only the most necessary pieces of legislation. “I’m not going to file a lot of bills next year because we don’t have the money, and maybe we have enough laws,” she said.

One goal that every legislator will agree to pursue this session — even if they differ on the best way to achieve it — is creating jobs for Tennesseans.

The focus for 2010 is “jobs and more jobs,” said Maddox, whose district includes Carroll County, which is struggling with a 17.2 percent unemployment rate.

While the national jobless rate begins to hint that the economy might be turning around, Tennessee’s 10.3 percent unemployment rate lands the Volunteer State among the highest third in the country.

Western Tennessee has been hit the hardest, with areas like Lauderdale County tapping out at 18.6 percent unemployment, and nearby Haywood County with an 18 percent jobless rate.

With the 2010 general election clearly in view, many lawmakers are likely hoping to wrap up statehouse business as quickly as possible.

“A lot of people are going to want to be going in to pass a budget and go home because it’s campaign season. There are lot of issues that need more attention than they’re going to get,” said state Rep. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville.

Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, R-Collierville, said his New Year’s resolution involves cutting roughly $1.5 billion in spending to keep the state’s fiscal boat afloat.

If the Legislature adjourns “without breaking the bank, and without breaking the backs of the Tennessee taxpayers,” then he’ll consider himself to have been successful, said Norris.

Categories
News Tax and Budget

Slow Economy Predicted to Slowly Improve in 2010

Tennessee’s economy is showing signs of recovery, but the government’s tax take isn’t going to start rising again for a while, a University of Tennessee economist is forecasting.

William F. Fox, director of UT’s Center for Business and Economic Research in Knoxvillle, says November’s tax collection numbers for the state, although still down from last year, are an improvement over previous months in 2009 — at least in terms of showing a smaller falloff from 2008.

“I expect that to continue,” Fox told TNReport.com. He also spoke earlier this week before the State Funding Board and will talk again about the Volunteer State’s economic picture with members of the Legislture’s Joint Business Tax Committee on Thursday.

Still, negative revenue growth is probably in store for the state for the next six to eight months, he predicted.

November tax collections for Tennessee lagged $13.5 million below budgeted estimates, the Department of Finance reported Monday. Sales tax collections were down $21.2 million.

“The recovery in tax revenues is slow everywhere,” said Fox. “And the fact that you are experiencing economic growth does not necessarily equate to better tax collections.”

But Fox said he expects three percent revenue growth next year. “Tax revenues will begin to recover slowly after the economy begins to grow,” he said.

The state’s dreary employment market will also take some time to brighten, even though Fox said there’s evidence Tennessee businesses are on the whole expanding production. Unemployed workers are probably not going to see a glut of “Help Wanted” signs cluttering up store and company windows, at least in the short term.

Estimates released last month showed Tennessee’s unemployment at 10.5 percent — and much higher in many rural communities. State Labor Commissioner James Neely said the numbers, which overall were unchanged from October, indicated “a pattern of stabilization in most sectors of Tennessee’s economy.” New numbers are due out soon.

Fox doesn’t anticipate employment will begin growing in earnest for the next three or four months. “That’s part of why tax revenues won’t begin to improve for a while either,” he added.

Categories
Liberty and Justice News

Seeking Consensus on Traffic Cameras

Instead of slamming the brakes on red-light traffic cameras, House Transportation Committee members have tentatively agreed to try and hash out a three-part proposal to guide and regulate their use instead.

The rough plan, which includes a series of studies and a possible moratorium on new red light cameras, would give lawmakers more tools – and time – to decide the ultimate role the new technology will play in Tennessee communities.

Still, a number of lawmakers haven’t backed off their basic objections with the red-light cameras, saying both that the photos they take subvert civil liberties and that the private camera-vendors collect too much profit off the issuance of violations.

But the hope is to approve one comprehensive plan and move it through the Legislature, according to Rep. Bill Harmon, D-Dunlap, who chairs the committee.

The panel batted around ideas Wednesday, including a plan by Maryville Republican Rep. Joe McCord to shuffle profits from citations to drivers education or trauma services statewide.

McCord, a vocal opponent of red light cameras, introduced legislation last year banning the technology. He has since dropped the ban, saying he now sees a safety value of the system, but he’s still uncomfortable with how the ticket-generated revenues are divvied up.

Many on the 12-member House Transportation Committee agree that the private traffic-camera service-providers currently have too much unchecked, profit-driven power over motorists.

The vendors capture alleged violations on camera, examine the pictures, cross reference the information with the Department of Motor Vehicles, then mail out the citations. In return, they receive the lion’s share of fines collected.

Harmon wants the state comptroller to take a hard look at the traffic cameras and report back to lawmakers on issues like what impact the systems have on vehicle crashes, the make-up of traffic-camera service contracts, and detail as to how citation revenues are spent.

Harmon also wishes to see the state Department of Transportation conduct an engineering study on each intersection proposed to use a traffic camera, and added he hopes to ban all unmanned speed cameras on state highways.

While many lawmakers on the panel generally seemed supportive of Harmon’s ideas, some still argue the cameras are unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy. “If it intrudes a little, it’s too much,” said Rep. Tony Shipley, a Kingsport Republican.

A study (pdf) by the free-market Tennessee Center for Policy Research released earlier this year argued that traffic-enforcement cameras are unwise, unnecessary and unsafe.

The City of Gallatin collected nearly $1 million in traffic citations linked to the traffic cameras in 2007, according to TCPR’s study. At least 16 Tennessee cities use some sort of traffic camera: Chattanooga, Clarksville, Cleveland, Gallatin, Germantown, Jackson, Jonesborough, Kingsport, Knoxville, Memphis, Morristown, Mount Carmel, Murfreesboro, Oak Ridge, Red Bank and Selmer.

“There’s a lot of money being made here,” said TCPR policy director Justin Owen, an attorney who co-authored the report.

Instead of installing cameras, he says lawmakers should require municipalities to extend the length of the yellow light, giving drivers more time to travel through the intersection instead of stopping short for fear of a traffic ticket.

“The mere presence of the watchful cameras encourages drivers to attempt to stop at yellow lights even if passing through the light would be safer. Coupled with a decrease in yellow light timing, this can readily explain the increase in the number of rear-end collisions that occur at intersections with red light cameras,” stated the TCPR report.

Rep. John Tidwell, an engineer from New Johnsonville, says he’ll push lengthening the yellow light next year.

The Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police maintains that the cameras help enforce the rules of the road, reduce crashes and generally improve safety, said Maggi Duncan, executive director. The association plans to push for the red light and speed cameras this legislative session.

The committee hopes to formulate an initial legislative proposal at their next meeting on Jan. 11.

Categories
Liberty and Justice News

Lawmakers Focusing on Possible New Traffic-Camera Rules

Traffic cameras may be growing in popularity among local governments and law enforcement agencies across the country, but some state lawmakers are questioning whether they belong in Tennessee.

Some say the cameras – which snap pictures when motorists drive through a stop light – are simply a tool to raise money.

“There’s no doubt that in some places it’s not about safety. It’s about revenue,” said Rep. Richard Floyd, a Chattanooga Republican.

House lawmakers examining the use of the high-tech traffic enforcement tools plan on introducing bills next year that could create statewide guidelines on the sorts of intersections where cameras could be used, and lengthening the duration of a yellow light before it turns red.

New Johnsonville Democrat John Tidwell, a civil engineer, said yield signals made one second longer will help reduce vehicle crashes, and he hinted he’ll push that issue in the coming session.

Also under discussion are laws to prohibit speeding-enforcement and stoplight-cameras completely.

The cameras are typically operated by private companies that set up the equipment, snap photos, evaluate violations and mail tickets to vehicle owners. Those organizations also receive a chunk of the revenues collected by violators, which is adding to the unease and outright opposition some critics are voicing.

Red-light cameras are under fire right now in a lawsuit arguing that traffic enforcement systems are operating illegally because they’re not properly licensed. Other suits attacking the practice have cropped up around the country.

Lawmakers Tuesday heard from Gordon Catlett, a patrol-support commander for the Knoxville Police Patrol Division who is a supporter of the cameras – and threat of a ticket – to change driver behavior.

“A lot of us treat a traffic signal like a yield sign,” he said.

The Transportation Committee will meet again Wednesday morning to discuss possible alternatives to traffic cameras, and ways to tinker with the system already in place.