Vermont General Fund revenue $16.1 million shy of fiscal 2016 targets


State revenues for the last fiscal year fell 1.1 percent shy of projections, according to the Agency of Administration.

The administration's revenue report from June, the final month of fiscal year 2016, shows that general fund collections for the year came in $16.1 million short of the projected total of $1.43 billion.

The final revenue collections for the general fund in fiscal 2016 came in 2.3 percent ahead of the prior year.

In a statement Friday, Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson acknowledged that low tax receipts in April had a lingering impact on state coffers, but he was optimistic that the fiscal year would close out balanced.

"While preliminary results reflect we didn't fully recover from the revenue shortfalls in April, we are very pleased the general fund expenditures for the year have also come in under budget sufficient enough to compensate for the revenue shortfall," Johnson said.

The state will balance the budget "without dipping into any reserves," he said.

More information on the revenues and expenditures from fiscal 2016 is due out later this month. The Emergency Board, a panel that includes the heads of the legislative money committees, is scheduled to meet Thursday.

Transportation revenues for the month of June were $29.1 million, less than 0.2 percent short of the monthly target. However, the transportation fund revenues for the year came in at $264.6 million, short of the $266.7 million target.

Meanwhile, education fund receipts in June were slightly ahead of target. That fund finished out the year at $189.7 million, short of the $190.2 million target.

Stephanie Barrett, an analyst with the Joint Fiscal Office, said that although the numbers came in lower than expected, the state likely will not need to dip into reserves to close out the fiscal year.

The fiscal 2016 budget left $6.5 million unspent, which will help to resolve finances for the year, she said.

State spending has been running cold, Barrett said, specifically within the Medicaid program.

Expenditures in Medicaid have been lower than expected in recent weeks, which she said is "really a reversal of what we were seeing at the beginning of the fiscal year."

A revenue report posted on the JFO's website pegs the shortfall against projections at $16.8 million, but Barrett said the administration's report is based on the most recent data.

Tom Kavet, an economist who contracts with the Legislature, said Friday that the report is "not really indicative of some major problem with the economy or major problem with revenues."

There are nuances to the results in each individual category, Kavet said. One driver of the shortfall against projections was the warm winter weather, he said.

The weak winter tourism season was "just unprecedented," Kavet said, adding that it was the lowest visitation rate on record. That translated into lower-than-anticipated state revenue from the rooms and meals tax, as well as the sales tax, he said.

Kavet said the estate tax, which is notoriously volatile, came in low against projections.

Income tax revenue came in below target in part because of "excessive expectations of last year's tax change," Kavet said, referring to changes lawmakers made to Vermont's tax code in 2015.

Tax preparation software from Intuit and other companies did not take into account some of the changes that took effect with this filing season. As a result, between 15,000 and 20,000 people who itemize their deductions underpaid their taxes, according to the Tax Department.

Kavet said that in the context of the full state budget, the shortfall against revenue projections is not particularly significant.

"It's actually a fairly small miss," Kavet said.


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