Although hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated some state and local economies last fall, post-storm revenue collections have been a boon to some Gulf Coast areas.
In Texas, state sales tax collections rose 9.4 percent in October, compared with the same month the previous year. After a storm-related drop in revenue in September, some localities' tax revenues in October were also considerably higher. Beaumont and Orange, two southeast Texas towns hit hard by Hurricane Rita, each saw a sales tax jump of 43 percent over the previous year. Nearby Port Arthur got a 23 percent boost, and Houston's sales tax revenue rose 20 percent.
State revenue increases reflect the influx of evacuees from the hurricanes. "The numbers also show," says Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn, "that after Hurricane Rita, Southeast Texans immediately bounced back and began to repair, replace and rebuild what they lost."
The story was similar in parts of Mississippi hit hard by Katrina. State officials there were initially concerned about slow revenue growth, but the rebuilding effort led to an October tax take that was $23 million higher than budget estimates.
Some small towns, their population swelled by coastal residents forced inland by the storm, saw their October tax intake rise as much as 130 percent, compared with the same month the previous year. Sales tax revenues in Hattiesburg, the state's fourth-largest city, surged to record levels.