JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri ended its 2012 fiscal year with slightly better-than-expected revenues, but the influx of millions of additional dollars doesn't necessarily lessen the need for spending cuts, the state's budget director said Tuesday.
The state reported more than $7.3 billion in general revenues, primarily from income and sales taxes, during the fiscal year that ended Saturday. That was up more than 3.2 percent compared with the 2011 fiscal year, and exceeded the projected 2.7 percent growth rate upon which the budget was based.
The fiscal year turned out to be "just a little bit better than expected," said Linda Luebbering, the director of budget and planning for Gov. Jay Nixon's administration.
The bottom line is that Missouri took in about $39 million more than anticipated, Luebbering said.
But she said that doesn't translate to a budget surplus. Luebbering said the additional money will help cover higher-than-budgeted expenses for disaster costs, legal cases and other items. She said the extra revenues also partially make up for the fact that legislators never authorized an amnesty program for overdue taxpayers, as had been assumed in the 2012 budget.
Before the 2013 fiscal year began Sunday, Gov. Jay Nixon announced that he was blocking the expenditure of about $15 million — largely for higher education institutions — because he believed the budget was out of balance. The cuts could be reversed or expanded, depending on state revenues. But Luebbering said it was too soon for either course of action.
House Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Lee's Summit, said the better-than-expected revenues during the recently concluded fiscal year shows that the Democratic governor was unwarranted in announcing cuts to the current budget.
"It was political — he just wanted to be seen as taking decisive action reining in spending when the reality is we're starting fiscal 2013 with $70 million more than anticipated," Silvey said.
Silvey said his estimate of the state's beginning cash balance takes into account both the additional revenues from 2012 and the fact that state agencies left more money unspent during this past year than the budget had assumed.
Silvey and Luebbering both said last year's revenue figures contained some encouraging news. Most notably, individual income tax collections were up nearly 3.8 percent compared with the previous year.
"That is the best sign that we can point to that things — although slowly— are starting to turn around," Luebbering said.