The Spending Affordability Committee, composed of members of the General Assembly and three public members, was briefed by the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) on November 13. The second meeting of the Committee each year focuses on the State’s transportation program, debt policy, and capital program. This year, the Committee was also provided with on overview of local government revenues, and tax and salary actions; as well as an updated general fund outlook for Fiscal 2014. As reported by the Baltimore Sun (limited free views available):
After years of budgetary gloom and shortfalls in the billions of dollars, Maryland’s fiscal forecasters offered lawmakers a brighter outlook Tuesday, saying the state’s operating budget could be just $27 million in the red next fiscal year.
Top fiscal analyst Warren Deschenaux told an Annapolis budget committee that it almost appears that next year’s budget “could take care of itself.” The last few years in Annapolis have been wrought with fiscal angst as lawmakers had to close budget gaps in the roughly $16 billion annual spending plan with spending cuts and tax increases.
However, as previously reported on Conduit Street, the State must still contend with its structural deficit. Based on prior discussions of the Spending Affordability Committee, the State is to close its structural deficit in Fiscal 2014. New figures from DLS, show that the structural deficit for Fiscal 2014 has dropped from $638 million to $417 million due to additional revenue from table games and revisions in debt service estimates.
In the capital budget, Fiscal 2014 project requests are considerably higher than the authorized funding that is available. Total requests are over $1.1 billion for a remaining authorization of $434 million. Transportation funding is also limited. According to DLS,
Even under MDOT’s revenue forecast, its draft fiscal 2013 to 2018 Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) does not include funding for:
- construction fo the Red and Purple LInes or the Corridor Cities Transitway;
- Watershed Implementation Plan obligations after fiscal 2017;
- the planned intermodal facility in Baltimore City; or
- highway projects to expand and enhance the network after fiscal 2017
In addition to these discussions, DLS provided an overview of the following issues: