State Revenue Estimates Drop $405 Million

The Board of Revenue Estimates (BRE) met on September 24th to reduce projected revenues by more than $405 million for fiscal years 2015 and 2016. The BRE, composed of  Comptroller Peter Franchot, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Secretary of Budget and Management T. Eloise Foster, is responsible for estimating state revenues to assist with managing the State’s budget.  As reported by the Washington Post,

The Board of Revenue Estimates lowered the revenue projection for the current fiscal year, which began in July, by about $177 million. The projected figure for the following year was lowered by about $228 million.

Officials said the resulting shortfall in this year’s budget can be absorbed by a $186 million surplus fund that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and lawmakers crafted earlier this year. That includes more than $80 million in cuts that O’Malley directed in July anticipating a revenue write-down.

Officials are attributing the shortfall in revenue to the economy and federal sequestration. As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

Andrew M. Schaufele, director of the bureau, called the write-downs “very significant,” though he noted they were not as large as those the state grappled with at the beginning of the recession.

Schaufele said the lower projections reflect diminished expectations for income tax, withholding tax and sales tax receipts. He said a housing recovery that was expected to help jump-start revenue growth “has proven to be insufficient.”

Schaufele said weakness in the job market is largely the result of declining federal payrolls and the uncertainty that budget cuts have bred among private businesses that depend on federal contracts.

“The whole region has been lagging the nation ever since sequestration was put on table in Congress” in 2011, he said. “It’s affecting Virginia to an even more substantial degree.”

The Administration has stated that it doesn’t plan to take make further reductions in the current fiscal year’s budget, but address any budgetary shortfalls in the fiscal 2016 budget.  The fiscal 2016 budget will be introduced by the next administration and debated before the General Assembly in the upcoming session, which begins in January.

Budget Secretary T. Eloise Foster a member of O’Malley’s Cabinet, said the state will not need to seek more cuts this year. She noted the Board of Public Works cut $84 million in July because of an earlier write-down. Even with the latest revenue shortfall, she said, the state still has a cash balance of about $10 million.

“Even with this write-down, we remain in balance,” she said.

O’Malley spokeswoman Nina Smith confirmed that the governor wants to make cuts in next year’s budget rather than 0the current one.