A two-year budget shortfall facing Maryland Gov.-elect Larry Hogan (R) swelled to nearly $1.2 billion on Monday after a state panel revised its forecasts for tax collections to reflect still-sluggish growth in the state’s economy.
The Board of Revenue Estimates projected the state will collect $123 million less in revenue than previously forecast during the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends in June, and $148 million less during the following year.
The write-downs widen what were already projected gaps of nearly $300 million this year and $600 million next year in Maryland’s roughly $16 billion general fund budget.
Hogan said in a statement Monday that the latest numbers are “no surprise” but said they add to the challenges he faces as he prepares to take office on Jan. 21. Hogan’s first budget proposal, for the coming fiscal year, is due to the legislature two days after he arrives.
The write-downs “will require difficult budgetary decisions that we must make to ensure that Maryland government lives within its means,” Hogan said. “Maryland families and businesses must make difficult financial choices every day, and now our state government must do the same.”
Hogan pledged to work with other state leaders “to truly balance our budget and to build a strong economic foundation for Maryland’s future.”
It is possible the state will make a round of budget cuts before Hogan takes office. Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), a member of the Board of Revenue Estimates, urged departing Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) to present some options early next month to a separate state panel, known as the Board of Public Works, that has the power to make budget cuts when the legislature is not in session.
T. Eloise Foster, O’Malley’s budget secretary, declined to say whether O’Malley plans to do that. Foster said that she has directed state agencies to slow their spending in coming months to help deal with the shortfall in the current fiscal year. It’s unclear what level of savings that will generate, she said.
The latest revisions were blamed largely on federal spending cuts that have taken a toll on the entire Washington region. The projection of revenue was lowered most significantly for personal income taxes, reflecting slower job growth than previously expected.
Franchot said the numbers tell a larger story about the state’s sluggish recovery.
“It is yet another reminder that we haven’t turned the corner from the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes and that we continue to experience one of the slowest and most anemic economic recoveries that any of us have ever seen,” he said.
State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), another member of the revenue panel, said it was important to note that state revenues are now growing, albeit more slowly than anyone would like.
“It is a heck of a lot better than it was only a few years ago,” she said.