SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Gov.-designee Olene Walker is getting an inaugural gift.
As Walker prepares to take office on Wednesday, state revenue is improving, with quarterly tax receipts coming in about $10 million higher than the $830 million than was projected. The figures are for the state's first quarter, which ended Sept. 30.
"At least it's not bad news," state Budget Director Lynne Ward said.
Walker, who is succeeding Gov. Mike Leavitt, a third-term Republican taking a job as chief of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is not about to go on a spending spree, however. And the state still isn't out of the financial woods.
"It is very early in the year to draw any conclusions yet," Ward said. "I wouldn't say we could spend it yet."
The $840 million in tax receipts is an improvement over the $817 million collected last year during the same quarter.
The revenue figure includes all main taxes, like sales, income, tax, corporate, beer and cigarette taxes, insurance and severance taxes. It does not include such minor income generators like fines, which have yet to be tabulated.
Ward said the biggest first quarter boosts came from higher individual income and sin taxes.
In an improved job market, income taxes brought in $385 million in the first quarter, a $12 million jump over last year's first quarter.
The state tracks job growth on a calendar year basis, not fiscal year. In 2002, the state lost about 8,200 jobs.
The state's Council of Economic Advisers have said Utah's job growth last year was negative 1 percent, its worst performance in 48 years. The state economy slowed dramatically after the 2002 Winter Olympics as the national recession caught up with Utah.
But things are on the upswing.
This year, state officials are projecting a job gain of 1.3 percent, or about 14,000 jobs. "So we're making up for what we lost and some gains," Ward said.
The biggest boost has come in the new home market.
"Construction is still good, largely due to low interest rates," she said.
Taxes from the sale of beer, alcohol and cigarettes brought in $19 million revenue during the first quarter, a $6 million jump over the same time last year.
Part of that was attributed to a penny-per-bottle tax hike that went into effect July 1.
(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)