Since balancing the checkbook is one of life's terrifying cliffhangers, it's nice to report that the folks down in Richmond did their balancing act and found there was an unexpected $40.6 million left in the bank.

Only, gosh, Gov. Charles S. Robb says it's no cause for celebration--that the surplus represented only 0.6 percent of Virginia's $6.7 billion budget for the current fiscal year and is so "razor thin" that it should be "as much a cause for concern as it is comfort."

Governments may be different from people, but we always consider it a victory when the last check that was written hasn't triggered an overdraft notice.

Robb told of the surplus yesterday at a meeting of local government officials in Charlottesville.

The governor said revenue shortfalls during the coming year are expected to exceed the $40.6 million left over from the past year. The shortfall, between $50 million and $75 million, is expected from reduced forecasts of income and sales taxes resulting from the downturn of the national economy.

Robb told the meeting that the $40.6 million surplus resulted from austerity moves taken since he became governor in January that are being extended. State government employment is down by 1,682 since January, he said.