By PHIL KABLER
May was another strong month for state tax collections, with collections of $380.9 million topping estimates by $46.38 million, or 14 percent.
Strong income tax and severance tax collections, which combined came in $32.04 million ahead of estimates, accounted for much of the revenue report - which was released Monday, not by the governor's office, but by the Senate Finance Committee.
Traditionally, the governor's office, in conjunction with the Department of Revenue and state Budget Office, releases the monthly revenue reports.
In recent months, Gov. Jim Justice has staged press conferences to personally unveil strong revenue reports, and on at least two occasions, handed out flower leis to celebrate particularly good months.
As for the Senate's break with protocol, Senate spokeswoman Jacque Bland said Monday, "Nothing precludes them from doing so whenever they choose. It's public information."
However, it comes a day after Gov. Jim Justice met with Senate Republican and Democrat caucuses, and then met with reporters to express his concerns with Senate leadership's pursuit of a new version of an omnibus education bill in special session.
He raised objections to several portions of the bill, including a controversial provision to authorize state-funded charter schools, and lamented a "very, very difficult impasse" with the House of Delegates, which in the regular session, rejected the original omnibus education bill.
House leadership has broken the House up into four select committees, and plans to address individual bills on education when the House resumes in special session on June 17. Justice said Sunday he does not believe the House is going to take up the Senate's omnibus bill.
"All we're doing is wasting more time, more people's money, and more taxpayers' dollars," Justice said.
About 90 minutes after Senate Finance released its report, the governor's office issued a press release on the May revenue collections, declaring what it called another historic surplus.
In the report that ostensibly steals Justice's thunder on May revenue collections, the Senate Finance report notes that with one month remaining in the 2018-19 budget year, the state has total revenue collections of $4.278 billion, which is $81.04 million, or 2 percent ahead of estimates.
Counting increases in revenue estimates made by the Justice administration during the budget year, that total is $291.27 million ahead of the original revenue estimates, the Senate report notes.
One potentially sobering figure in the May report is that sales tax collections - which along with personal income taxes make up the two primary pillars of state revenue - came in $600,000, or less than 1 percent above estimates, at $116.8 million.
According to the Finance Committee report, revenue collections have exceeded estimates for six months of the budget year, have come in flat for two months, and missed estimates for three months, in November, January, and March.