Thursday, March 15, 2012

Report Shows Consumer Confidence Remains Strong in OK

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma consumers continue to show their confidence that Oklahoma's economic recovery will be long lasting, Office of State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger said Tuesday as he released a report again showing double-digit growth in the General Revenue Fund.
"We had almost a 15 percent jump in total General Revenue Fund collections in February, compared with the same month a year ago, and consumer spending was one of the biggest factors for the increase," Doerflinger said.
"It's evident that Oklahomans feel good about the future and believe the policies of the administration of Gov. Mary Fallin are making a difference," added Doerflinger, secretary of finance.
"I believe this is reflected by the surge in sales tax collections this year. Our citizens have more money to spend and evidently think this is a good time to make big ticket purchases," he said. "This is borne out by a sharp increase in motor vehicle sales."
Doerflinger pointed out that last month's report showed more state sales tax collections were recorded in January than in any month in state history -- $165 million.
"We followed that up in February with another strong showing in the sales tax category. That revenue source produced $145 million for the General Revenue Fund, beating the amount collected for the same month a year ago by more than 14 percent.
"Meanwhile, general revenue from the sale of cars, trucks and other motor vehicles soared by 134 percent. February is not normally such a strong month for motor vehicle collections. Consumers likely took advantage of unseasonably warm weather to express their confidence in the Oklahoma economy through vehicle upgrades."
Governor Fallin said the OSF report is "great news for Oklahoma and shows our pro-growth policies are helping the state recover from the national economic recession. Oklahoma is proving that low taxes, fiscal responsibility and limited government are the recipe for a strong economy.
We can ensure our recovery continues by using the increased revenue to pay for tax cuts which will allow families and small business owners to keep more of their hard-earned money while making Oklahoma more competitive economically." 
Total collections to the General Revenue Fund through the first eight months of FY-2012 were $3,506.5 million. This amount was $404.5 million and 13 percent above collections for the first eight months of FY-2011 and $347.1 million, or 11 percent above the total estimate for the same period of FY-2012.
In February, total collections for the General Revenue Fund were $283.4 million, an increase of $36.4 million and 14.7 percent from a year ago. The amount collected in February was $43.1 million and 17.9 percent more than projected.
It was the 22nd consecutive month that GRF collections have exceeded the same month for the prior year, and the 10th straight month receipts were higher than projected.
"It was also the 10th time in 15 months that we have recorded double-digit growth in our General Revenue Fund. That is impressive," Doerflinger said. "Our recovery from the Great Recession has been broad-based and should continue in the months ahead, barring some kind of calamity on the national scene."
The General Revenue Fund is the main source of funding for state government operations.
The March GRF report showed natural gas collections down again because of low prices, but the drop in receipts from that source was more than made up by increased oil revenue.
"Activity in the oil patch appears to still be contributing significantly to our economy." Doerflinger said. "We're hoping for a rebound in future months in natural gas prices, which would be a bonus."
The amendment allows individuals who currently claim exemptions or deductions on their state individual income taxes for Social Security income or any type of retirement income to continue to do so, as long as their household income is below a certain threshold. Above that threshold, seniors, retirees and veterans would already break even or pay less in taxes under the provisions of HB 3038.

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