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Friday, May 12, 2017

NOTES FROM THE SENATE, MAY 12, 2017

GOVERNOR'S VETOES AND APRIL REVENUES HIGHLIGHT WEEK

The 40 days the Governor had to sign, veto or leave ran out this week and he issued his veto list which was not as dramatic as last year. State revenues for April came in and the month turned out to be a very good one for the state, which is a relief since April is traditionally the best month of the year for net revenue gains.

Governor Deal vetoed only 9 bills from the 2017 Session and none match the controversial veto of the "campus carry" legislation back in 2016. His vetoes included 2 General Senate bills, 4 Local House bills and 3 General House bills.

HB 131 and HB 132 were local bills repealing the constitutional amendment creating the Fulton County Industrial District (FCID) and annexing the property into the City of South Fulton. Governor Deal's veto message stated that a previous constitutional amendment prevented the annexation of the FCID into the city property.

HB 174 would have expanded the permissible medium of payment allowed under insurance policies. Presently legal claims cannot be paid in forms other than U.S. tender because there is an obligation to accept the payment. This legislation would have allowed insurance companies to require other forms of payment such as gift cards for payments under insurance pay-outs. Because this form of payment cannot be deposited in a bank nor deductible to cash, there is no recourse for stolen or lost cards and other limits maybe placed by retailers on cards.

HB 359 would have created a different type of Power of Attorney which could potentially bypass traditional methods of child adoption. The Governor's message stated that there would have been little oversight of this process. He suggests that advocates and legislators work together this coming year to address these and other adoption issues that strengthens the present system.
HB 425 would have encouraged the State Board of Education to implement "opt-out" procedures for assessments and allowing paper and pen formats. The Governor states in his message that local systems currently have the authority to implement "opt-out" procedures and he saw this bill as adding additional administration.

HB 439 and HB 440-Local legislation that would have de-annexed two parcels of land from the City of Atlanta and then HB 440 would have moved them to the City of Sandy Springs. The Governor suggested more time for all parties to discuss this process.

SB 125 would have allowed physicians to delegate their authority to prescribe hydrocodone compound drugs to physician assistants. The Governor stated his belief that this change would increase the number of prescriptions for the drug and would encourage the epidemic of over usage of these drugs.

SB 222 would have created the Local Government 911 Authority and would have made changes to the public service answering points and the fee collection and disbursement process. He cited lack of oversight as one problem as well as the lack of state level coordination. He also cited a gap in the timing of hiring of staff and the collection of fees. He stated an intention of creating a Local Government 911 Authority and placing it under GEMA/Homeland Security.

APRIL REVENUES REPORT A "GOOD" MONTH

April is usually a good month for state revenue collections due to the April 15 deadline. At $2.261 billion, the state showed a 9.1% growth for the month. However, "inside the numbers" we find that of the $187.8 million gain for the month over last year's April report, some $123.2 million is due to a timing change in the Corporate Tax report. Of course it all counts, but it is worth noting that Year to Date, Corporate collections are still negative by some -$30.6 million.

Individual Income Taxes were up 4.5% or $48.7 million. Individual Refunds were down -7.3% or $44.7 million. Withholding Payments were up 2.5% or $21.8 million.

Sales Taxes were up 3.6% or $18.3 million. Title/Tag Fees were down -14.7% as were Title Ad Valorem Tax collections, -8.0%. Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages taxes were both negative at -16.1% and -3.4% respectively.

Transportation Tax Collections were mixed with Motor Fuel negative at -4.1% or $6.2 million, Highway Impact Fees up by $558,000 and Hotel/Motel Taxes up by 6.9% or $1.03 million. Altogether, Transportation collections were negative at -$4.6 million for the month.

YEAR TO DATE FIGURES POSITIVE

Overall, the state's numbers on revenue collections look fairly positive. To date, ten months into the FY 2017 Fiscal Year, Georgia is up $718.7 million at the end of April over the same ten months of FY 2016. Total revenues have reached $18.06 billion and the overall rate of increase is 4.1% YTD.

Individual Income Taxes are up YTD 4.3% showing $379.0 million. Corporate Income Taxes, despite the big month in April, are negative after ten months at -3.9%. Sales Taxes are up for the year 4.5% or $205.9 million. Title Ad valorem taxes are up 7.0% or $54.3 million. Tobacco and Alcoholic Beverages collections are mixed with tobacco down slightly at -0.8% and alcoholic beverages up 1.6%.

Transportation Taxes and Fees are positive for the year gaining $105.2 million.

POSITIVE APRIL PUTS REVENUES AHEAD OF BUDGET

The positive growth in April revenues puts the state ahead of budget by $167 million. This amount, of course, will add to the state's surplus after books are closed at the end of June in addition to any lapsed funds by departments.

The 12 month trailing average, going back 12 months is back up a little to 4.6% growth including transportation taxes and fees.

Just for informational purposes, here are the only states on which we have 12-month trailing data that includes April revenues:

Texas - Revenues down -6.9% (Continues to suffer some from oil cutbacks)

North Carolina - Flat at 0.03% growth - April revenues were lower than 2016 April

Kentucky - 0.7% trailing average (had bond rating lowered earlier this year)

So in Georgia, all is not "Doom and Gloom" as I have been accused of representing in the past.

Full transcripts of bills may be found at http://www.legis.ga.gov/en-US/default.aspx . Simply type the bill number into the box at the top left-hand corner of the screen and specify if it is in the House or the Senate. As always, I welcome any questions you may have.

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