Tax hike boosts state revenue to record

SPRINGFIELD — State general fund revenues cleared $30 billion for the first time ever in the fiscal year that ended last Thursday, the Legislature's Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability reported Wednesday.

Fiscal year 2011 revenue — boosted by a midyear income tax increase — totalled $30.48 billion, up more than 12 percent from the $27.09 billion collected in fiscal year 2010.

The fiscal year 2011 revenue sum surpasses the previous record of $29.64 billion in fiscal year 2008.

Last year's revenue growth was due to a number of factors, COGFA said.

"Obviously the tax changes enacted halfway through the fiscal year played the key role in the increase, as did the tax amnesty program which occurred in the fall," said a COGFA analysis. "The magnitude of the effect of those items often served to mask the underlying improvement in the economic sources that was happening simultaneously with the tax changes.

"While impossible to dissect and assign values to each, it was clear from receipting performance that revenues were recovering from last year's dismal showing which saw receipts plunge over $2 billion."

For the year, personal income tax revenue was up 30.4 percent, corporate income tax receipts were up 38.1 percent and sales tax revenue — perhaps the best indicator of economic growth in Illinois — grew by 8.3 percent. Sales tax revenue finished $137 million above COGFA projections.

"The consumer represents about two-thirds of the economy," said Jim Muschinske, revenue manager for COGFA. "They held up quite well, even when the employment numbers weren't as good as some hoped. I think that portends continued modest growth in the recovery."

COGFA is now working on fiscal year 2012 revenue projections, which may be down from the estimates made four months ago, Muschinske said.

"The General Assembly cut and then the governor cut again," he said. "So we're trying to get a handle on what that means in terms of federal sources. But it's going to be hundreds of millions less than what was anticipated in the March period. You're looking at probably between $400 million and $500 million less federal money."

Not all revenue sources were up in the last fiscal year. Liquor gallonage taxes were off by 1.3 percent for the year, inheritance taxes were down 49.8 percent and riverboat gaming transfers and receipts dropped 15.4 percent.

The most significant loss, though, was in federal revenue. On a percentage basis they were off 9 percent. But in dollar amounts they were down $534 million.

"Basically the year, in terms of revenue, went according to script," Muschiske said. "We saw some growth. The sales tax, particularly in the second half, did pretty well."

COGFA analyzes only state revenue, not state spending.

The most recent fiscal condition report by state Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka, dated June 2011, showed general fund revenue for the last 12 months of $31.46 billion and expenditures of $31.59 billion. The state's general fund cash balance was $469 million, up from $130 million a year earlier.

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