Utah’s Revenue Projections are Trending Downward

Utah State Capitol 08In recent times every fifth week of Utah’s general legislative session lawmakers and special interest programs who get taxpayer monies get a little treat: The new revenue estimates bring in more money to spend.


But maybe not this year.

Yep. Legislators may find even FEWER funds for the rest of the current fiscal year (which ends June 30) and even LESS money for next fiscal year than estimated back in December.

The Utah Tax Commission’s new TC23 report – while NOT the official revenue estimates that will come next week – has some gloomy news. (See chart.)

Particularly in collections in the state’s severance taxes, mainly oil and natural gas production.

Year over year, February 2015 to February 2016, the severance tax take is at -73 percent.

Over the last 12 months, those tax collections went from $59.03 million to $15.87 million, or a loss of $31.16 million.

The corporate income tax is down 10 percent over the same time frame.

And the sales tax is up only 3.2 percent (hopefully).

Now, last year the state sales tax was in the black – yes – but it brought in $70 million LESS than was anticipated in the budget-setting process.

The TC23 shows lawmakers guessed the state sales tax (about 4.75 percent) would bring in an extra $66 million this year, or an increase of 3.8 percent.

But the sales tax year over year only brought in 3.2 percent more.

And while Utah’s economy is doing well – gangbusters, if you believe Gov. Gary Herbert – that is mainly in personal income tax growth, as Utah leads the nation in job growth for the size of our economy.

That’s led the head Gloomy-Gus of the Legislature, Senate Budget Chairman Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, to warn colleagues recently that the late-February revenue updates may not show more money – usually the case – but actually LESS money to spend as lawmakers rush to adopted a balanced fiscal 2016-2017 budget before adjournment March 10.

That would be less money than the December estimates for new or growing programs, less money for raises for state workers, college professors, and public school teachers.

In any case, lawmakers don’t need to worry about finding any extra money for their own pay raises – a special legislative pay commission recommended no pay hikes for the 104 part-time lawmakers, a recommendation that is binding on the body.