ANNAPOLIS – The honeymoon may be over.
After five straight years of budget surpluses – including an estimated $1 billion total surplus this year and $619 million last year – Maryland appears headed for a $201 million operating budget deficits in fiscal 2003, according to the state Department of Legislative Services Office of Policy Analysis.
Maryland law requires a balanced budget, so any shortfall in revenues would mean a corresponding cut in expenditures.
The legislative committee that signals to Gov. Parris N. Glendening what level of spending he can push through the Legislature in the 2001 General Assembly session – the joint Spending Affordability Committee – indicated Tuesday that a smaller rate of spending growth than in previous years may be in order.
Legislators aren’t looking for a lower spending increase, said the committee’s House Chairman Nancy K. Kopp, D-Montgomery, at a Tuesday hearing, but the governor may be looking for a significantly higher spending increase.
“We will give a prudent (spending increase), something that allows the governor to spend on his top priorities,” she said.
Glendening Communications Director Michael Morrill said the governor’s budget will not be introduced until January. But, he said he expects “the governor’s priorities will remain the same: to invest in education, and increase and sustain the quality of life for the people of Maryland,” he said.
Warren G. Deschenaux, director of the Office of Policy Analysis, said recent income tax revenue reductions, a general salary increase in 2002, and legislation enacted in 2000 would likely mean a $201 million deficit in 2003.
The Legislative Services fiscal office predicts a $9 million surplus is projected in 2002, a $172 million deficit is projected for 2004, and a $98 million deficit is projected for 2005.
“It does have a happy ending,” Deschenaux said. A $19 million surplus is projected for 2006.