State stashing $82 million, GOP says Budget official dismisses idea

February 11, 1993|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Staff Writer

Republican lawmakers said yesterday that $82 million in surplus state money is "sloshing around" in state agencies, an amount that could be put toward next year's budget instead of proceeds from the keno electronic lottery game.

"While I am sure the agencies can find imaginative ways to soak up their surpluses, it's fairly obvious that keno was not really needed to balance the budget," said House Minority Leader Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R- Baltimore County, surrounded by a dozen members of the GOP caucus.

But Deputy Budget Secretary Frederick W. Puddester quickly dismissed the GOP analysis, saying there is only $15 million in surplus funds, an amount that may be needed next year to pay for possible increases in Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor and disabled.

Keno is expected to generate $50 million this year, according to the Board of Revenue Estimates. That money together with another $30

million in transfers from the Transportation Trust Fund is to be used to help finance the estimated $12.7 billion budget for next year.

The GOP lawmakers said that their own analysis of the current year's budget shows that unspent money from this year could be used instead of keno and the trust fund. Among the excess funds, according to the GOP caucus, are:

* $32.7 million in savings from the Medicaid program because the caseload was overstated. The caseload was projected to be 457,000 by the Schaefer administration but is closer to an average of 435,000, said the Republican caucus.

* $18.2 million from 961 vacant state positions.

* $9.4 million from Aid to Families With Dependent Children, mostly because of more effective child-support collections.

* $3.9 million from General Public Assistance because the average

grant was lower than anticipated.

Added to those amounts was $17.7 million the Schaefer administration anticipates as a surplus this year.

Mrs. Sauerbrey said the GOP report came from one analyst looking at the entire state budget. "I'm absolutely certain that there are tens of millions of dollars in excess appropriations that we haven't found yet," she said.

But Mr. Puddester strongly disputed the GOP position.

Regarding the Medicaid program, he said $25 million would be used this year to restore parts of the program that have been cut, including nursing home care and transportation costs.

And additional funds might be needed for increased caseloads, said Mr. Puddester, noting that the rolls have risen about 2,500 during each of the last two months.

The vacant state positions were unfunded this year but money will be set aside in 1994 for those positions, nearly all which are anticipated in the health and corrections departments.

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