Table games play in Pennsylvania started the new fiscal year with a 6.1% increase, but it was not enough to erase a decline in slots play in July . Year to year gaming revenue was off by 1.7% for the month.
Pennsylvania’s 12th casino, Lady Luck at Nemacolin, opened in July and helped boost table games revenue for the month. Six casinos saw increases in table games play, with the biggest boost at Parx. Five others saw slight declines for the month of July.
Doug Harbach, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, says gaming in Pennsylvania is stable now after several years of rising revenues. He adds that revenue for property tax relief has remained steady for the last several years.
Just in time for the stretch run of the 2013 state budget season, revenue collections for May came in $35 million ahead of projections, bringing the fiscal-year-to-date total to 102 million above the forecasts.
Pennsylvania collected $2 billion last month, with the increase being largely driven by corporate tax collections, which accounted for 30 million of the surplus. Personal Income Tax collection was down, but sales tax revenues jumped after several sluggish months, coming in $1.3 million over estimates. Sales taxes remain more than $300 million behind for the year, however.
The figures were released the same day state House Republicans cleared their budget plan through the House Appropriations Committee in a party-line vote. Their $28.3 billion spending plan is slightly less than the $28.4 billion proposed by Governor Tom Corbett and does not include Medicaid expansion, an option for Pennsylvania under the Affordable Care Act, but one that Governor Corbett has staunchly opposed. House Democrats spoke out against the plan prior to the committee vote, setting the stage for the floor debate which could begin next week.
Meanwhile, Senate Democrats say they have their own budget plan, totaling $28.5 billion. Minority Leader Jay Costa criticized the administration’s resistance to Medicaid expansion while talking about the Senate Democratic caucus budget priorities Monday.
Lawmakers and the governor have until June 30th if they are to meet the budget deadline for a 3rd consecutive year. Several other issues loom over the budget talks, including pension reform, transportation funding and liquor privatization. The governor wants lawmakers to pass all four major initiatives before taking their summer break.
The $230-million dollar year-end surplus that was projected when Governor Tom Corbett delivered his February budget address isn’t likely to materialize in the final two months of the fiscal year. “At the end of the day we think we’ll be back at the original estimate from last June,” explains Independent Fiscal Office director Matthew Knittel.
Pennsylvania’s General Fund collections may be running $67-million above last June’s estimates, as of today, but they’re actually falling short of February’s revised expectations.
Compounding the problem, the IFO is now projecting 1.2% growth in state revenues in the new fiscal year. It may only be a slight downgrade from the 1.3% projection used to crunch the numbers in the governor’s budget plan, but it adds up to another $278-million dollar shortfall.
Combined, it’s a more than $500-million dollar hole in next year’s state budget. What’s changed since February? Knittel says sales and use tax collections are lagging.
“What we think is happening is that consumers are taking a hit,” Knittel explains. “We had some federal tax increases to start the year – the payroll tax cut expiration, some tax increases on high income individuals, and we think that’s restraining spending currently. But when we move into fall and winter, the consumers will have absorbed that hit and we think the spending will return.”
Meanwhile, the state budget season just got more difficult as state policymakers will have to find the cuts and/or revenues to fill a potential half-billion dollar hole.
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