State revenues up but concerns remain

Delaware is looking at an estimated increase in revenue of about $155 million for the current fiscal year and for 2012, a state panel announced Monday.

The Delaware Economic and Financial Advisory Council increased its estimate for 2011 by $78.6 million, or about 2.3 percent.

DEFAC also increased the estimate for the fiscal year starting July 1 by $77.1 million.

The biggest gains were made in abandoned property collections, bank franchise taxes and corporate income taxes.

Officials noted that while these increases were certainly good news, they did not reflect the overall economic health of the state.

“Our gross receipts revenues and our personal income tax revenues are still relatively flat,” said budget director Ann Visalli.

The question now for state lawmakers is what to do with the windfall.  According to House Speaker Robert Gilligan, it’s a nice problem to have.  “What I hope we do is just use it to make sure we’re able to balance the budget,” he said.

Gov. Jack Markell’s $3.4 billion budget plan for 2012 includes $100 million in cuts, as well as a proposal to reform health and pension benefits for state employees.

But Visalli warns against putting the money back into the operating budget.

“I look at that source of funding as a way to reinvest in Delaware and to continue the governor’s efforts to create and retain jobs.”

But Visalli doesn’t rule out the possibility of restoring some of the proposed cuts.

“Certainly there were some cuts that we had to propose in January that the governor wasn’t comfortable with and those will be looked at,” she said.

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