Politics & Government

State revenues up; furloughs may be unnecessary

FRANKFORT — A rebounding state economy has pushed up government revenue to the point that additional furloughs of government employees appear unnecessary, Gov. Steve Beshear said Friday.

The Beshear administration released the state's May financial report Friday, showing General Fund revenue up by 17.8 percent for the month and 6.7 percent for the fiscal year. That made 13 consecutive months of revenue increases, signaling what Budget Director Mary Lassiter called "a robust recovery."

The Road Fund, which receives most of its revenue from fuel taxes, also reported an increase of 10.5 percent for the month and 11.6 percent for the year.

Much of the growth could be attributed to a 9.3 percent rise in individual income tax receipts and a nearly 28 percent increase in corporate income tax revenue.

"I am pleased to see that revenues continue to improve beyond budgeted expectation," Beshear said in a statement. "It appears that we will end the current fiscal year with unexpected funds, though the amount, of course, won't be known until we close the books after June 30."

Beshear said the latest financial report provided hope that next fiscal year's revenues might also improve beyond budgeted levels and negate the need for additional mandatory unpaid leave for state workers.

"We will continue to evaluate whether any furloughs will be necessary," the governor said. "However, if things continue as they are going now, they will be unnecessary."

Beshear, who is seeking re-election this year, thanked state employees "for their sacrifice" in his statement.

"Nearly every state employee took these days regardless of position, including me," he said. "This sacrifice saved over 400 state jobs and helped us balance our budget despite incredibly difficult financial times, and it will not soon be forgotten."

Beshear's Republican gubernatorial opponent, state Senate President David Williams, said in a statement the furloughs were "nothing more than a politically motivated gimmick" to give Beshear a talking point in a political ad, and the governor has done a poor job with the budget while doing nothing to relieve the state's unemployment crisis.

"Ultimately, voters will have to decide if Beshear is someone they can trust after four years of budget and job creation failures," Williams charged.

The May financial report showed sales and use tax receipts up nearly 5 percent for the month and 4.3 percent for the year. Coal severance tax revenue was up 37 percent for the month and nearly 11 percent for the year.

Despite the overall growth in receipts, two key revenue generators posted declines. Property tax collections fell by 3.4 percent for the month and nearly 1 percent for the year, while cigarette tax receipts fell 12.5 for the month and 6.5 percent for the year.