SAN FRANCISCO — California's receipts exceeded forecasts for a fourth consecutive month in March, adding to the evidence that the state has turned a fiscal and economic corner, according to Controller John Chiang's monthly cash report.

Revenues were $356 million, or 5.9%, above forecast last month, nibbling away at a still-daunting $22.6 billion deficit. Compared to March 2009 when the state was in the depths of its cash crisis, revenue surged 16.6%.

"This shows that although the worst is likely behind us, it will be a long slog coming out the other end of this recession," Chiang's report said.

For the fiscal year to date, general fund revenue is ahead of forecast by $2.3 billion, or 4.1%. Compared to actual collections a year ago, they are up $1.16 billion, or 2%.

A surge in corporate profits has helped push stock market indexes to their highest levels since September 2008 and is benefiting California's general fund. Corporate income tax collections were $516 million, or 50%, higher in March than projected in the state budget. Year to date, corporate tax collections are beating budget estimates by $792 million, or 15.8%. They are still down 3.6% from last year's actual collections.

Personal income tax collections in the important month of March beat budget expectations by a modest $8.4 million, or 0.4%. So far this fiscal year, they are $877 million, or 3.1%, ahead of projections. Compared to actual collections a year ago, personal income taxes are down $979 million, or 3.2%.

Payroll employment was about 600,000 lower than a year ago in February, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"In California, we have yet to see any significant job growth," Chiang's report said. "Employers are expected to begin adding to their payrolls in the short term, but this evidence suggests that it will be many years before the state gets back to its peak level of economic activity."

California's third major revenue source, the sales tax, was weak in March, but has generally been buoyant this year. March collections were down $264 million, or 11.2%, from what was anticipated. They are $453 million, or 2.4%, above budget for the year to date. Compared to last year's collections, sales taxes were up $464 million, or 28.3%, in March, and they are up $2.08 billion, or 11.8%, year to date.

"The state's general fund revenues in March provided further evidence that our economy is on the mend," the report said. "Critically, this has come on the back of strong consumer performance."

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