More money, more problems? Pa. tax collections shot up in March | Monday Morning Coffee

As another budget season beckons, the state collected $5.6B billion in general fund revenue last month

April 4, 2022 7:12 am

(Getty Images)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Today is Monday, April 4, 2022. So if I’m doing the math correctly (and, bear in mind, I’m a journalist), just about three months remain before the Democratic Wolf administration and the Republican-controlled General Assembly have to get a deal on a new state budget.

So it could be good news that, as the new start of a new fiscal year beckons on July 1, Pennsylvania’s tax collections remain as brisk as ever, according to new state Revenue Department data.

Defying the old adage, March went out like a lion, with the state collecting $5.6 billion in general fund revenue, which was $659.1 million, or 13.5 percent, ahead of projections. So far this year, the state has collected $34.1 billion in tax revenues, which is $2.7 billion, or 8.5 percent, ahead of projections.

By any reasonable measure, this is good news. Brisk tax collections point to a healthy economy (even as inflation rages and gas prices start to look like the average cost of a bitcoin).

But as Biggie once famously noted, more money almost always means more problems.

That’s because legislative Democrats will look to those numbers and see justification (reasonably in your correspondent’s estimation) for increaased spending on a host of priorities, from public schools to paid family leave.

Legislative Republicans, meanwhile, as is their wont, will moan like Morrissey on a bad day that the state needs to tuck the money away for a rainy day, and shouldn’t spend it on anything at all — unless of course, it’s tax breaks for mega-corporations that don’t need them in the first place.

And you can expect those seemingly irreconcilable positions to remain in place as the clock ticks down on the 2021-22 budget year (in an election year, to boot) as the two sides try to reach an agreement.

Sen. Vincent Hughes , D-Philadelphia, speaks during a news conference in Philadelphia on Thursday, 1/20/22 (Commonwealth Media Services photo).

So just how brisk were tax collections? Here’s a look, courtesy of Revenue Department data, at each major category.

Sales Tax: Sales tax receipts totaled $1.1 billion for March, or $208.1 million above estimate. Year-to-date sales tax collections were total $10.3 billion, which was $767.7 million, or 8.1 percent, more than anticipated.

Personal Income Tax: The state collected $1.6 billion in PIT in March, or $158.6 million above estimate. That brought year-to-date PIT collections to $11.2 billion, which is $687.6 million, or 6.5 percent, above estimate, according to the Revenue Department.

Corporate Taxes: The state collected a whopping $2.4 billion in corporate tax revenue in March, which was $188 million above estimates. Year-to-date corporate tax collections totaled $5.2 billion, which was $810.6 million, or 18.6 percent, ahead of estimates, according to the Revenue Department.

Inheritance Taxes: The state collected $158.8 million in inheritance tax last month, which was $31.4 million above estimate. That brought the year-to-date total to $1.2 billion, which is $122.2 million, or 11.7 percent, ahead of estimates.

Realty Transfer Taxes: So far, so housing boom. The state collected $74.8 million in realty transfer taxes last month, which was $21.8 million above estimate. That brought the fiscal-year total to $624.3 million, which was $114.2 million, or 22.4 percent, more than anticipated, according to state data.

Other revenues, including cigarette, malt beverage, liquor and gaming taxes, totaled $67.7 million for the month, according to state data. That was $9.2 million above estimate. That brought the year-to-date total to $1.3 billion, which is $33.4 million, or 2.6 percent, above estimate.

So where’s that leave us? I’ll once again turn to the gospel according to BiggieIt’s like the more money we come across. The more problems we see … What’s goin’ on? What’s goin’ on? (Somebody tell me) What’s goin’ on?

We’ll find out in the run up to midnight on June 30.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Conor Lamb and Malcolm Kenyatta
Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Conor Lamb (L) and Malcolm Kenyatta (Capital-Star photo collage by Marley Parish).

Our Stuff.
Two of the Democratic candidates vying for their party’s nomination to fill Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat faced off in their first debate Sunday afternoon, with a looming absence from the third contender in the upcoming primaryMarley Parish has the story.

U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., made it official on Sunday night, saying he’ll vote against confirming Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court. Story from me.

It’s April, which means it’s Earth Month. And in this week’s edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller takes a look at the state of Pa.’s waterways as the Clean Water Act turns 50.

For unhoused students, transportation issues mean new schools and unfamiliar classroomsMary Niederberger, of the Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, reports.

Seven Philadelphia healthcare facilities scored a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s annual Healthcare Equality Index, our partners at the Philadelphia Gay News report.

Federal Reserve Bank research has shown there has been very little progress in closing the Black-white homeownership gap in Philadelphia over the past three decades, experts tell our partners at The Philadelphia Tribune.

From Capital-Star Washington Reporter Jennifer Shutt, here’s 5 questions answered about COVID-19 funding for states that’s still stuck in D.C.

ICYMI: The nine Republican candidates for governor faced off during an annual conservative conclave in suburban Harrisburg last week. Stephen Caruso has the details.

And the House Transportation Committee has advanced a bill aimed at addressing lost Pennsylvania Turnpike revenues, and increasing consumer E-ZPass transparency, Cassie Miller also reports.

En la Estrella-Capital: iVenados!: Aquí le mostramos cómo puede ayudar a Pittsburgh a recopilar datos sobre encuentros urbanos con vida silvestre. Y la Asamblea General de Pa. extiende la declaración de desastre de Fern Hollow Bridge.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Opinion regular Dick Polman wonders how much more evidence Attorney General Merrick Garland will need before he indicts former President Donald Trump. And former Clinton administration official Robert Reich would like to introduce you to the new class of ‘centibillionaires.’

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney is sworn in during the city’s 194th inauguration ceremony on Monday at The Met (Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune)

The Inquirer takes a look at the ‘strange final chapter’ of Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration.

Pittsburgh voters will head to the polls on Tuesday to pick candidates to serve out the unexpired terms of former state representatives Ed Gainey and Jake Wheatley, who are now, respectively, the mayor of Pittsburgh and the mayor’s top aide. The Post-Gazette has the details.

The widow of a slain Lebanon police officer says she’s chosen to forgive her husband’s killer, who also was killed in a shootout with police, PennLive reports.

Lancaster County is in line for $71 million in highway repairs this summerLancasterOnline runs down the list of projects.

USA Today’s Pennsylvania Capital Bureau considers the importance of the Trump endorsement in Pennsylvania this campaign season.

Fentanyl was involved in about 700 drug deaths in the Lehigh Valley in 2021, the Morning Call reports.

A Sunday night fire in Wilkes-Barre has left eight people without housing, the Citizens’ Voice reports.

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke says there are roughly 200 city cops who are doing work that could be done by civilians at a lower cost to the taxpayersWHYY-FM reports.

Spotlight PA has your guide to the race for lieutenant governor (via WITF-FM).

PoliticsPA runs down last week’s winners and losers in state politics. focuses on the blue states that are moving to create abortion havens.

The U.S. House is readying a $55 billion pandemic aide package for businesses that were left out of earlier relief bills, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The Senate comes in at 1 p.m. today.
11 a.m., 8E-B East Wing: Senate Transportation Committee
12 p.m., 8E-A East Wing: Senate Local Government Committee
12 p.m., 418 Main Capitol: House Democratic Policy Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
5 p.m.: Reception for Rep. Barbara Gleim
5:30 p.m.: Reception for Sen. Gene Yaw
5:30 p.m.: Reception for the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee
Ride the circuit, and give at the max, and you’re out a reality-bending $13,500 today.

Gov. Tom Wolf will join a ‘Justice for Victims’ rally at 10:30 a.m. in the Capitol rotunda.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept
Belated best wishes go out this morning to Wesley Robinson at the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, and Johnna Pro, at the Department of Community & Economic Development, both of whom celebrated on Sunday.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s one from Real Estate for your Monday morning. It’s ‘Days.’

Monday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
The Philadelphia Flyers topped the New York Rangers 4-3 in a shootout on Sunday night. New York rallied late with a three-goal third period, but couldn’t seal the win.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.