- Associated Press - Thursday, April 6, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - West Virginia’s tax collections from coal and natural gas production in March topped $40 million, exceeding original budget estimates by $13 million and showing continuing recovery from last year, officials reported Thursday.

The comeback in mineral extraction tax receipts came from increases in natural gas prices that also raised demand for power plant coal, Deputy Revenue Secretary Mark Muchow said. Muchow said the state also has seen an uptick in demand for metallurgical coal used to make steel. The state is more than 11 percent ahead of the previous year’s total severance taxes collected, he said.

“On the coal side, the payments for coal by itself were running a good 25 percent ahead of last year for the same time,” Muchow said. “Gas has been more positive recently due to improvements in the pipeline capacity.”

State Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy said the gain was partly offset because corporate net income tax, consumer sales tax and business and occupation taxes came in at more than $8 million below estimates altogether.

Officials are still projecting an overall budget shortfall of about $123 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30, Hardy said.

For the month of March, general revenue fund collections were $331.5 million, $26.3 million above the original budget estimate. That didn’t reduce the projected budget shortfall for the entire year because of repeated shortfalls in the first half of the year and with revenue officials expecting the March improvements and cautious about April collections.

“What we’ve been counting on all year long is for severance tax to pick up momentum to help us stay within our projection for the year, and that is happening,” Muchow said.

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