Georgia revenues fall 14 percent in May

Tax revenues continued to drop last month, adding to the pressure on state spending and services.

Georgia collected $1.26 billion in taxes and other revenues in May, down 14.4 percent from a year earlier, Gov. Sonny Perdue announced Friday. Collections so far this fiscal year are 10 percent below last year's levels, the governor said.

"There's no real good news in this," said Kenneth Heaghney of Georgia State, the state's fiscal economist. "It is a continuation of the last three or four months, with a continued decline across the board."

With unemployment at generational highs in the state, income tax collections were down 21 percent from May of last year. Sales tax collections fell 20 percent, while corporate income tax collections dropped 38 percent.

Agencies have already forced employees to take unpaid furloughs or cut other spending. The Public Service Commission, for example, had its budget for expert help next year slashed to $480,000 — less than it spent on a recent Georgia Power rate case.

"There may be some issues that do not get looked at too closely," said PSC spokesman Bill Edge. "It may cost consumers more money." A rate filing by Atlanta Gas Light is scheduled for November, he said.

Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said the shortfalls have been unprecedented, but that further cuts won't be needed in the next few months. "In terms of funding this fiscal year, these numbers (today) are in line with decisions we've made so far."

Officials continue to hope the economy bottoms this year and starts growing. Early signs of improvement would be higher collections for things like gas sales and estimated corporate taxes.