DALLAS - Sales tax revenue collected by Texas in March increased 7.4% from a year earlier to $1.6 billion, despite declines in some of the largest cities in the state.

A 10.2% gain in Irving, a 9% increase in Beaumont, and a 15.6% rise in Tyler among other sales tax revenue gains elsewhere in the state during the month offset a 2.1% decrease in Dallas and a 0.24% drop in Houston. Still, the overall increase points to a strong and expanding economy in the Lone Star state.

"Since the beginning of the fiscal year in September 2007, state sales tax collections have increased 7.2% compared to the same period in the previous fiscal year," state Comptroller Susan Combssaid in a release. "Although the national economy is slowing, here in Texas, growth in sales tax collections remains consistent."

The state sent $419 million in April sales tax allocations back to Texas cities, counties, transit systems and special purpose taxing districts, representing a 3.7% increase from a year ago, the comptroller said.

For the calendar year, sales tax allocations to local governments are 6.4% higher than 2007. January sales tax revenue increased 5.2% to $1.85 billion from the year earlier and February sales tax revenue rose 8.8% to $1.79 billion, according to the comptroller.

Texas does not have a personal income tax.

"One thing the comptroller has said is that our No. 1 industry here in Texas is oil and gas and the state is doing very well right now in that regard," communications director Allen Spelcesaid. "We're at a point now where help wanted ads are returning in large number to newspapers in Houston. And we didn't see that over-built speculation in the housing market that the East and West coasts experienced, which maybe has helped our economy not have the housing-market collapse those areas have had."

And the booming oil-and-gas industry is creating jobs in Texas and consequently more people are moving to the state.

The Dallas-Fort Wortharea added about 162,250 new residents between July 1, 2006 and July 1, 2007, making the metroplex the fastest-growth area of the country, according to the Census Bureau.

Houston was fourth with 120,544 new residents. The Austin-Round Rock area was eighth and San Antonio was 10th, giving Texas four of the top 10 largest gainers during that span.

"While we're not immune to national economic trends, I am struck by the ongoing vitality of Texas, in contrast to deteriorating economic times in other parts of the country - and I'm always impressed by the optimism and pride of Texans everywhere," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said in a release Thursday. "It's clear that we're doing a lot of things right in Texas: That's why we're growing, and that's why people want to move here."

Texas' general obligation debt carries underlying ratings of AA from Standard & Poor's, AA-plus from Fitch Ratings, and Aa1 from Moody's Investors Service.


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