Spending Affordability Committee Discusses State Fiscal Outlook, Transportation Trust Fund

The Spending Affordability Committee, composed of members of the General Assembly and three public members, meets annually beginning in the fall to recommend a target for budget growth for each fiscal year based on the current and prospective condition of the state’s economy.  The Committee held its first meeting this week with members of the other fiscal committees of the General Assembly to be briefed by the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) on a broad range of economic and fiscal matters affecting the State’s budget.

As reported by The Daily Record (subscription required to view full article), Warren Deschenaux, Executive Director of DLS, informed the Committee the state budget is balanced.

“I can tell you, with respect to the budget, the news for the short term is good,” said Warren Deschenaux. “Our budget will be in a state of balance in the current fiscal year and probably into the next fiscal year as well.”

The positive budget outlook is due to the State closing out fiscal 2015 with a greater than expected surplus and revenue estimates increasing for the current and upcoming fiscal years.

The Committee will use information from this briefing to make final recommendations to the governor regarding the state budget and use of any surplus money in December.

Other fiscal issues of interest to counties in the briefing document include an overview of State Aid to Local Governments and the Transportation Trust Fund. Funding to local governments is estimated to increase by $231.8 million or 3.3%.  Of this amount, $181.7 million, would be allocated to public schools.  DLS also reported that the draft Consolidated Transportation Program (CTP) allocates $743 million from fiscal 2017 – 2021 to increase the local share of Highway User Revenues.by 2.5 percentage points each year to bring the local share back to 30% by fiscal 2024. Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn, when speaking before MACo’s legislative committee, stated that the phase-in plan would not disrupt other projects currently in the CTP. Only a phase-in at a faster rate would require projects currently included in the CTP to be removed, altered or deferred. The DLS analysis disputes the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Transportation Trust Fund projections.

An overview of the issues discussed can be found in the bulleted list below.