WASHINGTON -- With once crucial month left in the first year of Virginia's two-year budget cycle, state officials are confident the state will avoid further bell-tightening by meeting its revenue forecast for the 1991 fiscal year.
"Prospects for achieving the official revenue estimate are strong," Paul W. Timmreck, Virginia's finance secretary, said in a memorandum to the chairmen of the General Assembly's money committees. "That's because the $588.5 million amount needed in June 1991 is 12.6% below the revenues collected in June 1990 -- and less than June collections in either fiscal 1988 [for fiscal] 1989."
The optimism expressed in Mr. Timmreck's June 14 memorandum stems from May revenue collections of $585 million, a 12.3% increase from the $520.1 million collected last May. The May collections boosted the state's revenue collections on a fiscal-year-to-date basis by 0.2%.
Following release of the April collections, state officials were cautiously optimistic that Virginia would meet its revenue targets. They said caution was necessary because of the state's uncertain economy and the fact that May and June are large revenue collection months.
State officials are forecasting revenue collections of $5.4 billion for the fiscal year, which ends June 30. That represents a forecast of a 1.4% decline from fiscal 1990 collections of $5.49 billion.
June collection figures, which will determine whether the state must undergo another round of belt-tightening, are slated to be released Aug. 23 by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder during a presentation to the General Assembly's money committees.
Earlier in the year, officials projected a $2.2 billion budget gap during the 1991 and 1992 budget biennium. That was up from a projected gap of $1.85 billion in December.
To eliminate the potential deficit, Gov. Wilder proposed a range of budget savings, most of which the General Assembly adopted. And in a compromise between the governor and legislators, the state may tap part of its $200 million rainy-day fund to alleviate pressure on state agencies -- if revenues come in as expected or better.
Should revenues for the 1991 fiscal year come in as forecast, Virginia will cancel $105 million of agency budget cuts for the 1992 fiscal year, which will be offset with money in the serve fund. The fund would then stand at $95 million. Officials believe the reserve would be adequate to meet the state's needs in the case of any further economic downturn.
Despite the generally rosy outlook shared by officials following release of the May collection figures, some storm clouds loom. The month's $104.2 million of sales tax receipts, for example, was off 11.1% from 1990 levels, prompting Mr. Timmreck in his memo to note, "May's poor collections do not bode well for the remainder of fiscal 1991 and potentially the beginning of 1992."
However, individual income taxes have increased 5.5% on a year-to-date basis, reflecting lower unemployment in the state. The jobless rate was 5.4% in April, the lowest level since last December, and all of Virginia's largest urban areas showed reduced unemployment.
Corporate incomes taxes also have done better than forecast. Estimated to fall 15.3% from 1990 levels, year-to-date collections of $227.6 million indicate only a 9.6% drop. As a consequence, the state needs to pull in only $35.2 million from the corporate tax in June to meet its revenue forecast. June 1990 receipts were $49.8 million
"The strength in individual and corporate income tax receipts more than offset the weakness in sales tax collection," Mr. Timmreck said in his memo. "With only one month remaining, the prospect for attaining the fiscal 1991 revenue estimate is good."