Christmas shoppers helped produce a record amount of monthly sales tax collections in Oklahoma and make up for lower gross production taxes on oil and natural gas, state finance officials said Tuesday.
Sales tax receipts for December amounted to $172 million, state Finance Secretary Preston Doerflinger said. The previous monthly high was $165.4 million, in June.
The December sales tax collections were $18.6 million, or 12.1 percent, more than the same month a year ago.
Through December, monthly sales tax increases over the previous year have averaged nearly 9 percent, Doerflinger said.
Total collections for the general revenue fund, the state's main operating fund, in December were $528.9 million, a decrease from a year ago of $13.5 million, or 2.5 percent. Receipts for the month exceeded the estimate by $14.4 million, or 2.8 percent.
The general revenue fund is made up of about 70 revenue sources and is where all revenue from state taxes and fees goes, except for funds earmarked or dedicated to specific programs.
Total general revenue fund collections for the first half of fiscal year 2013, or through Dec. 31, are $2.7 billion, which is $43.9 million, or 1.6 percent, less than total collections for the same period a year ago.
But the amount is $47.5 million, or 1.8 percent, higher than the estimate that this year's budget is based on.
Gross production tax collections on oil and natural gas fell $46.4 million, or 84.8 percent, in December compared with the same month the previous year.
For the six-month period, gross production tax collections on oil and gas are down almost $231 million.
The first $150 million in oil revenue each fiscal year is dedicated to three separate education funds; collections last year hit that benchmark in October, two months earlier than expected.
Because of increased drilling and relatively high oil prices last year, the gross production tax on oil came in significantly above estimates.
The threshold for this fiscal year was reached in December. The general revenue fund received about $5.4 million in oil gross production taxes last month.
“We expect energy collections to pick up in the months ahead, especially from oil,” he said.
Doerflinger, who also is director of the state Office of Management and Enterprise Services, said he's concerned the threat of economic trouble nationally, which could have an adverse effect on Oklahoma, remains.
While Congress and President Barack Obama reached a deal earlier this month to avoid the “fiscal cliff,” which prevented state and federal tax increases this year for the majority of Oklahomans, they refused “to make the hard choices on runaway spending,” Doerflinger said.
Until spending cuts are addressed, there will always be a risk of another recession, he said.
“I worry that their dillydallying eventually will take its toll on the psyche of businesses and individuals who want to invest in our economy to keep our state and country moving forward,” he said.
If a new deal isn't reached in March, the “fiscal cliff,” or sequestration, could result in Oklahoma losing $137 million in direct federal funding as a result of automatic, governmentwide spending cuts.
Estimates are that Oklahoma, which has five military installations, could lose up to 20,000 jobs, which would include 8,000 military and aerospace-related positions.
“Decisions still pending in D.C. also could harm our important defense and aerospace industries, as well as complicate the state budget process,” Doerflinger said.