by Max Brantley
The state revenue report for the budget year ending June 30 was a bright one — $145 million surplus on gross revenues of $5.9 billion. Putting that aside will go a long way, one time, to covering coming increases in Medicaid costs — projected to rise somewhere from $250 to $400 million in 2013.
The net revenue increased 3.9 percent over the previous year, with increases in all the major income categories — sales tax and corporate and personal income tax. Gross revenue was up more than 4 percent.
$145 million is a lot of money, no doubt. But it's worth remembering that it is only 2.4 percent of the gross collected.
News gets better still when you look at June, the most recent month. There, gross revenue was up 5.5 percent, or almost $30 million (or more than 20 percent of the surplus in one month), above last year. This included strong sales tax collections, an indicator of consumer habits.
Dare we declare a trend?
The Republicans are already yapping on Twitter that Gov. Mike Beebe was wrong earlier to resist further tax cuts at a time when the surplus was projected to be much smaller. They are wrong. Major state obligations await in health care costs. The more money retained — and effectively built-in if a growth trend truly has been established — the better for the state and the health of its people.
The state already had another $45 million squirreled away.