Watching the Tax Dollars Come In

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Wednesday 10:49 a.m. update: The last two days since this posting was written have been huge for income tax receipts -- almost $1.9 billion in just 48 hours, thus putting the state on a path to possibly exceeding expectations. No doubt that would change the political debate over revenues come May. --JM

This may not be the thing you want to hear on the day you're asked to hand over your taxes owed in 2011, but the state of California needs your cash. And fast.

Through Friday, state data shows only about 31% of the tax revenues projected -- and counted on -- for April had come in, meaning the month needs to finish big to avoid adding to California's fiscal pressures.

Reporters have tallied the day-by-day tax collection in April for years, but it's a process that's gotten a lot easier in recent times thanks to a web page provided by Controller John Chiang to track each day's take.

It's important to remember that there's not much certainty in predicting the exact timing of when the dollars will come in, so it would be premature to sound the warning siren. Even a cursory glance at the 2010 daily data shows that, if things play out as they have in the past, the biggest days are likely to be in the second half of the month.

Still, it's been a relatively slow month for dollars to arrive. In the first 15 days of April, the state took in just under $2.15 billion; in the same time period in 2010, a little more had been collected -- about $2.17 billion.

Overall, California's revenues in the 2010-2011 budget year have been stronger than the year before. At the end of March, the state was $4.62 billion ahead of the end of March 2010. But that advantage has been shrinking slightly over the last two weeks, even after the single biggest day of the year -- this past Friday, when more than $522 million in state tax revenues came in.

April is a crucial month; Controller Chiang's office reports that last year, the traditional tax month accounted for some 16% of all state income revenues for the entire year. Should things fall short of projections this time around, it's going to make the work of Governor Jerry Brown and legislators that much harder... and the debate that much more heated.

Next up to watch: the coming 48 hours. In 2010, the two single biggest days were those immediately following the tax deadline, accounting for more than one fifth of the entire month's total.

With that, get those envelopes or e-files in... we're all watching.

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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.
  • hillary_b

    2 weeks, no podcast…your adoring public is depressed!