If you haven't already seen it, check out this potential bombshell, which appears in an AJC story today by James Salzer and Jim Galloway:
Perdue used slow revenue collections in April as one of his reasons for vetoing the tax cut. However, some lawmakers say the governor's administration manipulated the April figures by delaying the cashing of income tax checks that month. Income tax collections were down 24 percent in April over April 2006. They jumped 45 percent in May.
The whole story is here.
I knew May's total revenue figures were way up compared to last year, which was interesting. But that jump in income tax revenue is a jaw slacker.
Bert Brantley, the governor's press secretary, had this to say: "Any charge or accusation that there's been instruction from the governor to not report revenues as they come in is out of touch with reality."
The thing to remember about statistics is they can be hard to understand and easy to manipulate — particularly when you compare just one month to another. And taxes were due two days later than usual this year, which means some of the collections that would otherwise have come in April showed up in May, according to the revenue department.
In fact, Graham said the department got about 107,000 fewer state tax returns in for the first three weeks of April this year compared to last. And the fourth week brought about 110,000 more this year compared to last.
Still, as the AJC has reported, legislators, already wary of Gov. Sonny Perdue and his budget positions, are grumbling.
Even State Rep. Larry O'Neal, a Warner Robins tax attorney, head of the Ways and Means Committee, a brilliant numbers guy and a close friend of the governor's, called the May numbers unusual.
"It certainly draws that question into the forefront," he said. "I don't see that there's necessarily any slight of hand, but it is very, very conveinant."
By the way, the total revenue increase (not just the income tax numbers) for May 2007 compared to May 2006 was 27.9 percent. That, O'Neal said, is "just unheard of." Graham said that the jump is indeed an anomaly compared to past years.
Brantley pointed to the year-to-date numbers as more relevant. They paint a positive picture of Georgia's revenue this year compared to last, which is up 7.6 percent. But if you look at the sales tax figures we're up 3.7 percent in that category so far this year. And gross sales tax collections were down a bit in May.
These numbers are available here.
Plus, Graham noted that the sales tax figures relevant to the housing market — lumber sales, etc. — were particularly weak. Housing, obviously, is major economic indicator.
"There are mixed signals out there," Graham said.
Indeed. These revenue reports and their relevance to all the governor-House-Senate budget issues looks like an issue that's going to bounce around for a while. It will probably be another wedge between the governor and Republican leaders in the House. The question is, will this lead the Senate to revolt against the governor, too?