'Not good, but it's not falling off a cliff': State revenue reports close to predictions

Were it not for a dismal June in the gaming industry, final fiscal '08 reports for the state would have been more than $11 million ahead of the revised forecasts used to chop back the state budget in June.

But in that single month, gaming percentage fee collections fell another $14.15 million behind projections, leaving the state another $3 million in the red.

The final fiscal 2008 numbers were issued Wednesday after the Department of Taxation finished tallying the revenue sources, which are reported to the state quarterly by businesses. Gaming and sales tax collections are the only major revenues reported to the state monthly.

"We're within $3 million of what the Economic Forum projected, and I think that's good news at this point," said Director of Administration Andrew Clinger.

Josh Hicks, chief of staff to Gov. Jim Gibbons, described it as, "not good, but it's not falling off a cliff." He and others in the administration had been worried the final tally would be significantly worse, raising the specter of further cuts.

The original revenue projections totaled $3.01 billion for the year. Because of the economic slump, the Economic Forum revised its projections downward in June and those projections were used by lawmakers to determine how much the current budget had to be cut during the June 27 special legislative session.

For 2008, actual revenues from the 10 major taxes that feed the state general fund fell 9 percent below the forecasts used to build the budget " just shy of $300 million.

Another $700 million projected shortfall this fiscal year " 2009 " brings the total this biennium to about $1 billion.

Hardest hit was the Real Property Transfer Tax which finished 2008 nearly 31 percent down from the original forecast at $85.9 million. But that was still nearly $2 million more than the forum's revised June projection.

The Modified Business Tax was nearly $6 million above its revised forecast and the insurance tax a half-million in the black. But the business tax was still $16 million less than the original projection and the insurance tax $34 million down.

While sales taxes finished the year $99.3 million below the original projections, collections were a bit ahead of the gloomy revised projections " albeit only by $1.4 million.

The problem is the gaming tax, technically a fee imposed on gross winnings by casinos, which finished nearly 11 percent below the original forecast. And at $771.8 million for the year, gaming is the second largest revenue source for the state at nearly 30 percent of the general fund.

The one surprise in the numbers was that the Local School Support Tax revenues finished the year $23.3 million higher than the revised June forecasts.

Those revenues, which the state guarantees to the school districts, are normally very close to the sales tax totals since the state share of sales tax is 2 percent and the schools' share 2.25 percent.

But Clinger said the projected schools tax included significant sales tax credits construction projects including City Center in Las Vegas are expected to get under the LEED green buildings legislation. He said those projects have not yet filed for those credits, so the revenues are higher than projected.

- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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