The expected collapse of New Jersey’s tax revenues didn’t materialize in March collections, but state officials say the pain is merely deferred, not avoided.

Tax collections announced Wednesday by the state Department of the Treasury were actually 3.6% higher than a year ago. More than half the state’s major taxes registered year-over-year declines in March, but overall collections grew due to solid income tax revenues.

However, that’s probably going to be last stable report before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic begin to take their toll.

“The revenues are off. I don’t have the numbers for you, but they’re falling off the cliff,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

Sales, gas, realty transfer and alcohol tax collections lag a month behind, so those figures reflect February economic activity, not March – meaning, before the economy was turned upside-down.

One possible indication comes from sales taxes from car sales, as reported through the Motor Vehicle Commission. That totaled $7.3 million, the least since November 2012, when economic activity was upended by Superstorm Sandy, and the smallest March in 17 years, adjusted for inflation.

Income tax collections were up, though that certainly won’t repeat next month given business closures, record layoffs and shifting the tax filing deadline three months to July 15.

Gov. Phil Murphy says the state is like everyone else in needing federal help beyond the $3.4 billion allocated to the state, though not yet distributed, in the $2.2 trillion CARES Act.

“Individuals need it who are unemployed. We’ve got an extraordinary, over 500,000 people who’ve lost their job. Small businesses need it in a big way. The state of New Jersey needs direct cash assistance from the federal government,” he said.

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States have asked the federal government for an addition half-trillion dollars in federal aid, a request Murphy reiterated Wednesday morning in a phone call with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“Talking about again the important need, the overwhelming need for support and financial help from the federal government. And he gets it, to his credit,” Murphy said.

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.