Economy experiencing renewed vigor

Friday, June 11, 2004

Is it possible, at long last, that the economy has turned the corner, bursting forth with renewed vigor? It certainly appears so in Nebraska, with a report Thursday that the state's tax receipts have been up sharply in each of the past four months.

All together, the State of Nebraska has collected $100 million more in taxes than lawmakers estimated when they adjourned last April. In May alone, net tax receipts were up 8.6 percent above the predicted levels of $221 million, according to a report by Leslie Reed in this morning's Omaha World-Herald.

None of us likes to pay taxes, but the increased amount does show, overall, that we're doing better. The increased tax collections -- on both sales and income -- shows that more money is in circulation: both through payrolls and increased purchases.

The surge in activity is especially welcome when you consider the economic slump that America endured following the 9-11 terrorist attacks. In combination with the dot.com collapse, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon sent the economy into a tailspin which persisted for more than two years.

And -- in this area -- we have had to deal with the added burden of the long-lasting drought and up-and-down cattle markets brought on by the BSE ("Mad Cow") scare.

Despite the problems, America, Nebraska and this area have persevered, rising to the challenge of rebuilding the economy. In Southwest Nebraska, as an example, investment groups are spearheading ethanol developments which will pump millions of new dollars into the area in the form of payroll dollars, trucking activity and increased prices for corn and milo.

And, also, of late, this prime cattle feeding region has benefited from record prices for feeders and fat cattle.

The economic improvement is not only good news for businesses and wage earners, it's a great help to the state as well. After three years of cutbacks and continuing budget concerns, tax collections are rebounding. As of the end of May, $2.47 billion had been collected for the fiscal year which ends June 30. That's an increase of 9.7 percent over the $2.25 billion collected in the previous fiscal year.

For the state, that represents an additional $220 million. But, even more important, what that means for state commerce is that many billions of dollars more are in circulation in 2003-04 than there were in 2002-03.

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