JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- State tax revenue grew as Missouri started its new fiscal year last month -- an encouraging sign for a cash-strapped government but not yet a cause for celebration, the state's budget director said Friday.
The monthly state Revenue Department report shows Missouri's general revenue grew 8.4 percent in July when compared to the same month one year ago.
But state budget director Linda Luebbering said that increase is misleading.
Last year, a delay in issuing individual income tax refunds meant that some of the checks did not get mailed until July. This year, almost all of the refund checks were sent out in June, so there was less of an impact on the state's bank accounts last month.
When accounting for that difference, July revenue grew by just 2.2 percent compared to July 2002.
"It's not wonderful news, but it's good news we have an uptick," Luebbering said.
She remains hesitant to rejoice because she said the state's budget needs 5 percent revenue growth to be fully funded and to reverse more than $250 million in spending withholdings already announced by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden.
Luebbering said the cuts were necessary because the budget began with an imbalance of $139 million, and programs such as the Medicaid health care plan for the poor and disabled are expected to need a midyear infusion of money to cover mandatory expenses.
The state's 2004 fiscal year, which began July 1, runs through June 30, 2004. July is historically one of the lighter months for tax collections, accounting for about 6 percent of the state's annual revenue. The biggest months are in the spring, when individual income taxes are due.
The most encouraging sign in July's tax collections, Luebbering said, was a 5 percent increase over July 2002 in state sales and use taxes, which comprise around 30 percent of the state's annual general revenue.
Individual income taxes, which account for around 60 percent of the state's annual revenue, grew by 1.3 percent in July.
The state reported declines in corporate taxes, estate taxes and the interest it earned on deposits.