State income steady, kickers not in the cards

SALEM — Oregon isn't immune from the national recession, the state's top economists said today, but it isn't expected to be hit as hard as states like California, Florida and Ohio, which are still reeling from the housing crisis.

Though job growth has slowed and unemployment has ticked upward, state revenues are holding steady, largely because of an uptick in personal income tax collections, senior economist Michael Kennedy told the House and Senate Revenue committees.

In the upcoming biennium, Oregon should have $17 billion in tax and lottery money to spend on public services, including education, health care and public safety, economists said, up from $15.5 billion in the current two-year budget cycle.

And the healthier-than-expected personal income taxes, which Kennedy said were driven by capital gains from a handful of wealthy Oregonians, leaves lawmakers with enough money left over at the end of this biennium to put 1 percent of the general fund budget, or about $140 million, into a "rainy day" savings fund.

In March, when income tax projections were grimmer, lawmakers weren't sure there would be enough left over to sock that much away.

For taxpayers, the slowing economy means it will be a while before they get another income tax "kicker" check like the one they enjoyed last December.

The checks are sent out when economic revenues exceed forecasts by more than 2 percent, but so far, projections have stayed within that margin. In 2007, taxpayers got more than $1 billion in kickers, reaping the growth of the previous two years.

— The Associated Press

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