State holds its breath as income taxes roll in

There isn’t much good news when it comes to the state budget these days. The state is still facing an estimated $20 billion deficit — a number that one Democratic Assemblywoman suggested this week was actually closer to $27 billion.

But quietly, state revenues are coming in above and beyond last year’s projections. And with the state entering the critical mid-April income tax collection season, the next few days could be crucial in framing the state’s budget picture for the next year.

State Controller John Chiang will release updated revenue numbers some time before Friday that will provide a hard count of the state’s cash through the month of March. So far, revenues are up close to $2 billion  — or 3.9 percent above projections for the fiscal year, according to Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper.

The increases have come in all three major revenue sources for the state. Personal income tax revenues are up by $869 million over projections for the year. Sales taxes are up by more than $717 million, or 4.2 percent. Corporate taxes are up by $277 million — about 6.9 percent over original estimates.  

State general fund revenues for the year were estimated at $88.1 billion. Revenues for the 2010-11 fiscal year are estimated at $89.3 billion.

But the taxes that are due on April 15 are scored as income for the 2009-10 fiscal year. This year, Chiang has launched a new Web site so that you can follow the state’s cash situation as the income tax filings trickle in.

You can track the income taxes day by day at

Income tax revenues account for the single-largest funding source for state government. According to Roper, personal income tax receipts comprised about 51.3 percent of the state’s general fund revenues in 2008-09. About 17 percent of the total income tax revenue comes in during the month of April.

So how do the numbers look so far this year?

Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer says the governor’s office is expecting to collect about $10.5 billion in personal income tax during the month of April. In April 2009, the state collected about $7.4 billion in income taxes, according to figures from the controller’s office. About $4.5 billion came between April 14 and April 24, as bean counters tallied the returns filed by the April 15 tax deadline.

Overall, income taxes for 2009-10 are expected to comprise $46.6 billion of the $88.1 billion general fund revenues. The state’s general fund revenues are estimated to be slightly higher next year, with revenues growing to $89.3 billion for the 2010-11 year.

If nothing else, the controller’s Web site illustrates California’s propensity to procrastinate when it comes to filing taxes. Between April 1 and April 6, the controller reports collecting just $290 million. That means there’s still billions of dollars worth of income tax revenues, give or take, expected to come in over the next three weeks.

Once the numbers are tallied, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will revise his January state spending plan. A Schwarzenegger spokesman says the governor’s “May Revision” is expected to be unveiled on May 14.

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