Preliminary Ohio budget numbers for last month show tax collections are up across the board. And that could mean a surprising change in plans in how the state will manage the financial damage from the pandemic.
Sales taxes are running 6% over estimates. The state’s main business tax was up for the month but still down slightly year to date. Medicaid caseloads are lower than expected. And total tax receipts are up more than 10% over forecasts.
And Office of Budget and Management Director Kim Murnieks said federal COVID relief money has been a huge help: “It’s essentially served as a second rainy day fund for use.”
Murnieks said that leads her to be cautiously optimistic about the state’s actual $2.7 billion rainy day fund.
“That could be a distinct possibility – that we would be able to protect our state savings account," Murnieks said.
Personal income tax collections are up almost 31%, but Murnieks said that’s because the opening of the tax filing season was delayed from January to February and fewer refunds were paid, so she expects that to level out.
Murnieks has been cautious throughout the pandemic. She said in August that she expected the recovery from the pandemic to "take us several years". And in testimony to the House Finance Committee last month, she said she was being conservative "to avoid coming back to you 60 days from now and asking you to cut the governor’s executive budget by a billion dollars".