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State's March revenue better than expected

FRANKFORT — The state's fiscal health is still precarious despite better-than-expected revenue collections for March, Kentucky's budget director said Friday.

General receipts for March were about the same as the previous year. The state collected $637.8 million compared to $637.7 million in 2008.

March's flat numbers come after the state saw a nearly double-digit decline in revenues during February compared to the previous year.

Overall, revenue collections for the first nine months of the fiscal year are flat compared to 2008.

To meet revenue projections for the fiscal year set by the Consensus Forecasting Group in November 2008, revenues would have to decline by 9.6 percent over the next three months.

The Consensus Forecasting Group, a group of independent economists, predicted that overall revenues would decline by 2.7 percent this fiscal year, which concludes June 30.

Mary Lassiter, the state's budget director, said in a written statement that despite a decent March performance, there are still concerns about the state's fiscal health.

"While General Fund collections in March did not lose ground relative to last year's activity, that is primarily due to a poor performance last March, in which receipts were down 5.7 percent, " Lassiter said. "Additionally, individual income tax receipts, which are strongly tied to Kentucky economic conditions, continue to decline as the state economy lingers in a national recession."

Lassiter said results from April "will be pivotal" for the state.

Gov. Steve Beshear said earlier this week that he has not decided whether he will call a special session this summer to address a potential budget shortfall in the next fiscal year. Beshear said he would wait until after seeing April's tax receipts before making that decision.

Meanwhile, the state's Road Fund, which pays for road projects, continued its downward decline.

Road Fund receipts fell 2.8 percent from March 2008. March was the 13th consecutive month that the Road Fund has declined, but the rate of decline was less than in previous months, state budget officials said Friday.

Road Fund receipts were projected to decline 3.4 percent this fiscal year. To meet that estimate, the state would need a robust 6.6 percent increase over the next three months.