Monday, March 27, 2023

Interim Report: Joint Committee on Finance

Mark Muchow, Deputy Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Revenue gave lawmakers an update on the state’s financial health Monday morning during a meeting of the Joint Standing Committee on Finance.

Muchow informed lawmakers that the state’s General Revenue collections last month were $112.7 million above estimates and 10.3 percent ahead of the November 2021 figure. Year-to-date general revenue collections are now $687.5 million above initial estimates according to Muchow.

Severance tax collections also continued to surge in November. Muchow explained that severance taxes for the first five months of this fiscal year exceeded total severance tax collections for all of fiscal year 2021 by more than 2.3 times.

Consumer sales tax collections of $153.2 million were $15.1 million above the estimate for November and 2.7% ahead of prior November collections.

Personal income tax collections in November totaled $158.9 million according to Muchow. Those collections exceeded the estimate by $109.7 million and prior year receipts by nearly 15 percent.

Muchow noted that the majority of the state’s surplus is from excess severance tax collections, a highly volatile revenue source. He advised cautious optimism with the numbers currently healthy across all sectors.

Also on Monday, the committee heard from Chelsea Ruby, Cabinet Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Tourism.

Ruby stated that prior to 2017, the tourism industry in the state was in decline but after an increase in funding, the outlook has improved drastically. During the pandemic, tourism naturally declined in the state, but numbers as of this month are 3.8 percent above where they were prior to the pandemic.

Ruby noted the success of the state’s Cooperative Advertising Program, which provides partners with the opportunity to leverage state resources and brand identity to advertise individual destinations, attractions and events. It has allowed the southern WV rafting companies to advertise in Columbus, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh. The Tourism Department determined where many of the visitors of the rafting companies were located and targeted the ads in those areas.

Traditional advertising, such as TV, billboards, print, and online is used by the Tourism Department in conjunction with sponsorships and event advertising. An example of this is the state’s advertising on the digital scoreboards at the Washington DC Capitols’ games. The department is also working to recruit major events to the state, such as the world mountain bike championship and the USA national diving championship at Mylan Park, according to Ruby.

She noted that more private investment is happening than ever before. More than 300 million applications have been submitted for tax credits on new tourism projects. The projects are taking place in every tourism region of the state.

Ruby said she believes strongly that tourism advertising is important because it improves the state’s overall image. When people know what West Virginia has to offer, they are more likely to live, work, and retire here. She thanked lawmakers for their continued funding support.

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