Robust December collections boosted Pennsylvania’s tax receipts to $191.2 million above budgeted estimates for the first half of fiscal 2011.

The state brought in $11.5 billion of general fund collections from July through December, $191.2 million, or 1.7%, more than earlier projections. December tax receipts came in $176.9 million above budgeted figures at $2.3 billion.

This marks a change for Pennsylvania after sluggish revenue performances in fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2009. At last year’s mid-budget mark, tax receipts were 2% below budgeted estimates.

“This is the first time since 2007 that Pennsylvania’s collections exceeded estimates at the halfway point in the fiscal year,” Gov. Edward Rendell said yesterday during a press conference on the state’s mid-year revenue performance.

Rendell, a Democrat, will leave office later this month after serving two terms. Republican Governor-elect Tom Corbett will be sworn in on Jan. 18.

Sales tax, personal income tax, and business tax collections exceeded expectations in December, with income tax receipts coming in 12% above projections.

For the first six months of fiscal 2011, sales tax receipts total $4.2 billion, $102.8 million above previous estimates. The state collected $4.4 billion from personal income tax between July and December, $16.6 million more than what officials anticipated. Year-to-date corporate tax receipts total $1.2 billion, $91.4 million above budgeted projections.

Strong revenues could fill a $63 million current-year shortfall, Rendell said. Officials passed the fiscal 2011 budget with that gap. The intention was to implement a natural-gas extraction tax later in the year that would generate nearly $70 million in fiscal 2011. The legislature has yet to pass such a tax.

Rendell estimates the state will face a deficit of $3.5 billion to $4 billion in fiscal 2012, which begins July 1. That anticipated shortfall is due to $2.6 billion of federal stimulus money that will dry up, increasing Medicaid and Department of Corrections costs, and a $700 million boost in pension payments, Rendell said.

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