DALLAS — Oklahoma sales tax revenue hit a historic peak in January, bringing in $165 million to the general fund.

Collections in the period, which spans mid-December to mid-January, were $17.2 million higher than last year and $11 million more than expected, finance director Preston Doerflinger said Tuesday.

"This is the largest amount of money we have ever collected from sales taxes in any month of any year ever in Oklahoma," Doerflinger said.

Sales tax collections in the first seven months of fiscal 2012 total more than $1 billion, he said, which is $81 million more than the same period of fiscal 2011 and $27 million above expectations.

"Consumer confidence appears to be high early in the second half of the 2012 fiscal year,” Doerflinger said. "Economists always look keenly at sales taxes in gauging economic growth, so this is encouraging."

January’s general fund collections totaled $525 million, up $34.6 million from January 2011 and $65 million more than projected.

Total state revenue collections in fiscal 2012 of $3.2 billion is $304 million more than expected and $368 million more than in the first seven months of fiscal 2011.

General fund collections in the first seven months of fiscal 2012 include $1.4 billion from the personal and corporate income tax and $300 million from energy production taxes.

Revenue is down from the severance tax on natural gas due to low prices, but that weakness has been more than made up by strong collections from the production tax on high-priced crude oil.

Total collections from the severance tax of $53.2 million in January were 125% more than expected. Collections in fiscal 2012 from the energy production taxes are $91 million above the official estimate and $92 million more than in the same period of fiscal 2011.

There were 195 drilling rigs working in Oklahoma in January, according to the Baker-Hughes rig count, with 121 drilling for oil and 74 for natural gas.

Doerflinger said he would expect a lower estimate for revenue from the natural gas tax for fiscal 2013 when the Oklahoma Board of Equalization meets Feb. 21 to adopt the official estimate used to develop the state budget.

"The good news is I think that because of the overall strength in the Oklahoma economy, the Equalization Board will up the ante on revenues available for the Legislature to appropriate," he said.

The Oklahoma Board of Equalization in December adopted a revenue projection of $5.6 billion for fiscal 2013. At that level, the Legislature could appropriate up to $5.3 billion from the general fund.

Gov. Mary Fallin said the surging state revenue reflects a growing economy. She called on lawmakers to support her plan to cut the state income tax by eliminating tax credits and exemptions.

“I am encouraging legislators to see this as an opportunity, not to grow government or to spend more on government bureaucracy, but to pursue a bold plan to cut taxes and allow Oklahomans to keep more of their hard-earned money,” she said.

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