DALLAS — Arkansas could have a $100 million surplus at the end of fiscal 2012 if revenues continue at their current above-expectations pace, state finance director Richard Weiss said Monday.
The surplus sits at $67 million with only one month left in the fiscal year that ends June 30, Weiss said.
“We really hesitate getting out and starting to try to forecast surpluses,” he said. “We’ll have a pretty sizable surplus at the end of the fiscal year.”
A “reasonable ballpark” for the ending surplus is about $100 million, he added.
“We’re pretty optimistic at this point,” Weiss said. “We’re feeling that things have kind of turned around for us.”
The ending balance is a sign that the Arkansas economy has almost recovered from the depths of the recession, according to Weiss.
“I think the economy has grown stronger faster than we thought it was,” he said. “It certainly is not fully recovered. It’s not strong growth like you’d have in non-recessionary times. We’re continuing to slowly climb out of the recession.”
Net general fund revenues for the first 11 months of fiscal 2011 total $4.24 billion, up $142.9 million from fiscal 2011 and $13.3 million more than expected in a recently revised revenue outlook.
Revenue expectations were raised in early May by $93.6 million due to strong sales-tax collections in the first 10 months of fiscal 2012. The state put $39.4 million of the unanticipated revenue into the rainy- day fund on May 5.
The current $67 million surplus includes the remaining $54.2 million from the revised forecast and the additional $13.3 million from May collections. June revenues that exceed the forecast will be added to the year-end surplus.
Chief state economist John Shelnutt said May’s sales tax revenue of $174.2 million marked the sixth month in a row that revenues topped the forecast and the previous year’s collections. Last month’s revenue was the highest for any May since 2001, the Revenue Department said.
Receipts from the sales tax total $1.95 billion so far in fiscal 2012. The official forecast for fiscal 2013 revenue remains unchanged at $4.73 billion.
Gov. Mike Beebe is expected to present a fiscal 2014 budget and revenue forecast to lawmakers in mid-November for the legislative session that begins in January.
Beebe has said that the next Legislature will face tough decisions on filling a revenue gap of up to $400 million in fiscal 2014 in the state’s Medicaid program.
Matt DeCample, Beebe’s communications director, said it is too soon in that process to say how or if the surplus will be spent.
“We’ll see how we finish out the year,” DeCample said. “We’re going to be patient.”