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Wisconsin budget still on track for surplus

By   /   July 3, 2012  /   No Comments

By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – As the book closes on Wisconsin’s 2012 fiscal year, the Badger State budget remains on track to post a surplus, budget experts tell Wisconsin Reporter.

“Wisconsin’s budget forecast has dramatically improved over the last four months,” said Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman for the state Department of Revenue.

Marquis gets the backing of a state budget watcher.

“I think we will definitely end the fiscal year with a (positive) balance,” said Bob Lang, director of the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau, which provides fiscal and program information and analyses to the Wisconsin Legislature.

Lang said the state appears to be on pace to hit estimates from the state Department of Revenue, which in May projected revenue to run ahead of projections by some $275 million, not factoring in long-term debt, at the end of the 2012 fiscal year, which just wrapped up June 30.

The department estimates a positive balance of $154.5 million at the end of the current two-year cycle, which ends June 30, 2013. About $65 million of overflow would be targeted for a reserve, in a state-mandated rainy day fund.

The fiscal bureau in February had projected a $143 million deficit at the end of the biennium.

It’s a much brighter picture than when Gov. Scott Walker took office in January 2011, when the state faced a $3.6 billion budget shortfall.

Better-than-expected tax collections have boosted Department of Revenue’s projections.

Total general purpose revenue, or all of the taxes the Department of Revenue collects, approached $11.13 billion through May, up 4.2 percent from last year, according to the agency’s website.

The state posted more than $1.02 billion in adjusted general purpose revenue in May, up about 3.4 percent from May 2011.

Adjusted individual income tax collections, the biggest share of revenue, rose 4.3 percent through the first five months of this calendar year, to $5.91 billion, and up 2.2 percent in May, to $420.45 million.

Corporate tax revenue plummeted in May, down 25.5 percent, to $18.56 million.

Marquis said May, for reasons not fully explained, tend to be a volatile month for the tax category.

“It looks strange, but it’s not a true picture,” she said.

Corporate tax collections on the year are up 4.3 percent, to more than $711.78 million.

Through May, general sales use tax collections are up 4.8 percent, to $3.5 billion, while excise taxes are down 2.2 percent, to about $581.36 million.

The category marked “other,” including estate, utility and real estate transfer fee collections, has seen the sharpest increase, up 7.1 percent, to $412.61 million.

Marquis said the revenue department probably won’t issue its next report on general purpose revenue until September, including a wrap up of the 2012 fiscal year. In October, she said, the agency is expected to release results from the first three quarters of the 2013 fiscal year.