April revenue off $184 million from estimates

Revenue collections for the month of April were off nearly $184 million from projections, according to the latest figures released by the state Treasury.

The Aprill shortfall leaves the state $230.2 million behind revised revenue estimates for the year to date. 

Collections for Fiscal Year 2012 now stand at $19.3 billion, up just 2.6 percent over collections from the last fiscal year, but down 1.2 percent from projections already revised downward in February.  That rate of growth is just over a third of the revenue increase projected in the fiscal year 2013 budget submitted by Gov. Chris Chrsitie and set to come before the legislature next month.

A spokesman for the Treasury Department refused to comment on revenue projections made by the governor last June, saying the Treasurer would say nothing more until May 23, when he is due to testify before the legislative budget committees.

But as of the first three quarters of the fiscal year, collections were off $263 million from the June estimates, putting the year to date shortfall from Christie’s initial revenue projections at over $500 million.

Revenue for the month missed projections in nearly every category, falling short by 2.8 percent in gross income tax, 22.1 percent in corporation business taxes, 3.2 percent in lottery revenues, 18.7 percent in motor fuels taxes, 14.7 percent in motor vehicle fees, and .7 percent in casion revenues.

Collections beat expectations by 2.9 percent in sales tax, 31 percent in cigarette taxes and 5.7 percent in the inheritance tax.

Despite the bleak April numbers, a spokesman for the governor said gloomy predictions are premature.

“Particularly when it comes to the end of the current fiscal year, the fact that there are two months left of revenue and three months of sales to report cannot be ignored,” spokesman Kevin Roberts said in an email to reporters.  “Meaning the urge to hastily generalize a single month’s report over the remainder of the year would paint an incomplete picture at best.”

Roberts also touted the long -term indicators, which he said signal fiscal health. 

For the year-to-date, income tax collections are up 2 percent from last year at $8.6 billion, and sales taxes have climbed 3.1 percent to $5.9 billion. Corporate business taxes are up 0.7 percent at nearly $1.8 billion. Motor vehicle fee collections have risen 16.3 percent to $330.7 million.

April income tax collections were $1.73 billion compared to $1.75 billion in Fiscal Year 2011. Sales taxes were $732.8 million, up from $705.8 million. Corporation business taxes were $463 million, down from $547.1 million.

The revenue miss is bound to add fuel to an already blazing debate over tax cuts proposed by the governor and both houses of the legislature.  Christie’s plan would offer an across the board 10 percent income tax cut, while Senate President Steve Sweeney has proposed a 10 percent credit on the first $10,000 of property taxes paid for taxpayers earning $250,000 or less.

In the Assembly, Majority Leader Lou Greenwald has proposed a 20 percent credit on property taxes paid and will pay for the extra cut by instituting an additional tax on incomes over $1 million.

Greenwald wasted no time slamming the governor’s proposal in light of the newest revenue figures.

“Today’s revenue report is the latest evidence of why Gov. Christie’s proposed income tax scheme is wrong for middle-class families,” Greenwald said in a release. “Not only does the Governor plan to shower $7,000 in tax break handouts to millionaires while giving crumbs to the middle-class, but it’s now becoming clear the governor has built his plan on a shaky foundation. New Jersey’s middle-class families need more than fuzzy math, a hope and a prayer.”

Yesterday, sources say Christie and Sweeney were set to announce a deal that would have incorporated the bulk of the Senate president’s plan, but would have upped the income threshold to $400,000.  The deal also included the restoration of the earned income tax credit rate to 25 percent of the federal credit.

The press conference announcing the deal was scuttled by Sweeney at the last minute, with a spokesman citing a minor health issue.  But legislative Democrats in both houses behind the scenes said they were taken by surprise, with many voicing their complaints to Sweeney.

It’s unclear how howls from his caucus or the latest revenue shortfall willl affect the deal.

April revenue off $184 million from estimates