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State revenue numbers continue freefall

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State revenue numbers continue freefall
By Pamela Pritt, Register-Herald Reporter

As lawmakers await the call for a special session to deal with a shortfall in the 2017 budget, this year's state revenues continue to free fall, with a gaping budget hole of $218.7 million. 

Revenue numbers were $72.2 million below estimates in April.

While energy sector severance taxes continue to plummet, it was April's personal income tax line item that revealed just how bad the state of West Virginia's economy is. 

"Historically, it's our biggest month because of the income tax," said Deputy Secretary of Revenue Mark Muchow. Instead, revenue estimates for personal income were off more than $44 million, and $65 million for the year so far. 

Muchow said typically about one-third of income tax filers owe the state money, but this month's lower number likely reflects a "downward adjustment in income" in the state. 

Tax refunds went out on time, he said, with a scheduled payout of $46.9 million, 9.3 percent more than the state paid out last April.

Severance taxes, with a slight uptick from oil, were $158.7 million below estimate, with only $22 million collected last month. Severance taxes are down 31.3 percent from last year, Muchow said. 

Coal severance is down more than 30 percent from last year, and natural gas severance fell 50 percent. Even with the slight improvement in oil severance, that sector paid 60 percent less in severance taxes than last year 

But for some "gap fill" measures taken by the legislature during the session, the loss could have been $94.1 million, Muchow said. 

He said estimates for next year are already adjusted to be $92 million lower than the 2016 budget because of "continued deterioration."