Initial 2020 Revenue Figures In Many States Are Higher Than Expected
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Initial 2020 Revenue Figures In Many States Are Higher Than Expected

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t hurt state tax revenues as badly as had been predicted by many states and economists.

Early data suggests that overall state tax revenues were little changed between the calendar year 2019 and 2020—a surprising outcome given early concerns about the fiscal impact of COVID-19. Our review of state revenue reports and Census state revenue surveys (updated 2/22/21) suggests a nationwide decline of less than 0.1 percent between 2019 and 2020. But there is a large range of outcomes, with some states, including Alaska and Hawaii seeing double-digit decreases that were predicted. Meanwhile, states like Idaho, Colorado, South Dakota and Utah experienced the largest revenue increases.

With Congress’ attention focused on the latest proposed COVID relief packages—the $1.9 trillion proposal from the Biden administration and a $600 billion package proposed by a group of Republican Senators, and the ongoing debate over the need for the inclusion of significant state aid in those bills, we are publishing the state revenue data we have collected for public use. Obviously, state expenditures on public health, unemployment, education and remote learning, and other areas have also been impacted by the pandemic and are part of that debate.

Most large states and some smaller states post monthly revenue reports. We located these reports and entered total revenues for each month of 2019 and 2020. For the nine largest states, we found monthly reports for all 24 months during the two year period. For some states, we only could find 10 or 11 months of data for 2020, at this time. Consequently, we are only able to compare their revenues for the 2020 year through October or November. For states that provided more incomplete information or no cash reporting at all, we relied on Census data that has been reported for the first three quarters of 2020.

Monthly state revenue reports often do not include all the taxes and fees that state governments collect and Census data is more comprehensive. In most cases, we collected total general fund revenue net of refunds and transfers from state reports and noted the exceptions. However, these reports from the states are typically comparable across months and years, so they should provide valuable insight into revenue trends.

You can use this data set to look at results for individual states.  The entire data set is in a Google Sheet here.

The below map shows how states’ revenue has changed from the 2019 calendar year to the 2020 calendar year. This map shows state data that may not be comparable or an apples-to-apples comparison across all states. Please click through to the spreadsheet to see the specific data that has been reported, its timeline, and its sources.

Percent Change In Revenue By State, Calendar Year 2019 vs Calendar Year 2020

Source: COVID-19 State Revenue Impacts: Monthly Revenues By State

Although revenues look fairly solid overall for the 2020 calendar year, it is still too early to tell how states will perform during their current fiscal years, which usually ends on June 30. States that rely heavily on income tax receipts may see reduced collections in April 2021 when taxpayers who have been under-withheld or did not pay sufficient estimated taxes make up the gap in their tax liabilities. January 2021 saw the peak in viral spread thus far and is likely reducing economic activity, but the more recent drop in new COVID-19 cases suggests a potential economic rebound in February and March.

We will maintain this data set until the Census data for the fourth quarter of 2020 is published which typically appears in mid-March.

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