Tax Blues... State Government-Style

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Yes, it's April 15th. Yes, it's not a fun day for those of us (myself included) who wrote a check to the state. But this year, it's even worse if you're a state lawmaker trying to balance the books for the fiscal year that's about to begin.

New data out today from the budget shop of Governor Schwarzenegger shows that revenues collected in March for the state's General Fund were $912 million less than expected for the month... and as a result, total revenues for the year are almost $1.2 billion behind projections. Keep in mind that those revenues come from several sources, only one of which is personal income taxes; corporate tax revenues were also down, for example.

But in April, it's personal income taxes that everyone cares about. After all, this is the month where most of those taxes are paid for the year. And the presence (or lack thereof) of those revenues are why state budget writers go back and revise their proposals in May... just weeks before the new fiscal year begins on July 1.

Every day this month, the folks at the Franchise Tax Board are opening those tax envelopes and adding up the totals on the checks. This is a process budget wonks have been keeping tabs on for years. This time, however, it's easy for anyone to monitor. Controller John Chiang has a new page on his website where daily preliminary tax receipts are being released.

In other words, you can see for youself how much is coming in... and how it compares to the tax revenues that came in during April of last year.

As of yesterday, the site shows almost $1.6 billion in personal income taxes have been mailed in this month. That seems to be running slightly ahead of 2007 (though the report is lagging by a day or so). No data has yet been entered for today. And remember, just because you mail it by tonight... the folks at the FTB may not actually get it in their hands for a few more days.

It will be interesting over the next two weeks to watch these totals, and to see just how in the hole the state really is. Remember, most everyone assumes that the budget-balancing actions taken by the governor and Legislature earlier this year may have only solved about half of a problem estimated at near $16 billion.

But remember, revenues were already behind projections when April began. And the governor's budget assumes a whopping $12.1 billion in personal income tax revenues will come in this month alone. How close will we get? The controller's website will have some answers over the coming days.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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