WASHINGTON - The growth in state revenues slowed in the first three months of this year compared with the final quarter of last year, the Center for the Study of the States reported.
What's more, the slackening of revenue growth would have been worse had it not been for high-income taxpayers who speeded up the receipt of income into 1992 to avoid paying higher taxes proposed by the Clinton administration that are to go into effect on income earned this year, the Albany-based research group said in a new report.
The report is based on data from all states except Alaska. Excluding the effects of legislated changes, state tax revenues gained an inflation-adjusted 2.6% in the first quarter compared to the same period last year, which is down from a 2.9% real gain in the previous quarter, the report said.
"Because many high-income individuals accelerated income into 1992, state income tax revenues received a temporary boost this year," the report says. "If it were not for this phenomenon, revenue growth would have been considerably slower than it had been at the end of 1992."
Tax data showed that many individuals apparently realized capital gains and delayed deductible expenses to maximize their taxable incomes last year, according to the report.
Much of these taxes were paid to states during the first quarter of 1993, prior to the April 15 deadline.
States with "a concentration of highly paid corporate executives and people with substantial capital gains realized bigger increases than others." the report says.
Not accounting for inflation and legislated tax changes, state revenues grew by 5.8% in the first quarter from a year ago, the report says. This is the smallest gain since the third quarter of 1991, when state revenues posted a 4.5% year-over-year increase, according to the report.
This slowdown in nominal growth resulted in part from states enacting fewer tax increases last year, after large increases the previous year, and from a few states cutting their income taxes, the report says.
Nonetheless, state revenues continued to grow in the first quarter. An unadjusted 9% gain in personal income tax revenues accounted for the largest share of the overall increase, the report said.
This gain followed a 6.4% advance in the previous quarter and was the largest increase since before the recession, the report says. Personal income tax revenues account for roughly 30% of all state revenues, according to the report.
State sales tax revenues increased 5.2% in the first quarter, down slightly from a 5.4% gain in the previous quarter, the report said. Receipts from sales taxes also accounted for about 30% of total state revenues. the report says.
States took in 6.7% more in corporate tax receipts in the first quarter than a year ago, the report says. Corporate taxes represent about 8% of total state revenues, the report notes.
"This performance is surprising in view of the fact that corporate profits were up sharply," the report says. "The difference reflects the fact that state corporate income tax revenue is only loosely related to profit levels in the short run."
State revenue growth in the first quarter varied considerably between regions. State revenue gained 9.9% in the Southeast, 7.2% in the Great Lakes region, 6.5% in the Rocky Mountain region, 6.2% in the Southwest, 4.9% in the Plains states, 4.8% in New England, 4.2% in the mid-Atlantic region, and 2.2% in the far West, the report says.
In general, "state fiscal conditions have stabilized after the fiscal stress of the last several years," the report concludes.
However, "three major imponderables" make it difficult to predict how states will do in the coming quarters, the report says. They are: the fate of the overall economy, the federal government's reform of health care, and the ability of states to restrain their spending.