State's $60 million surplus admired as largest since 1988

August 31, 1994|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Sun Staff Writer

Maryland ended its budget year with a modest surplus, the state comptroller announced yesterday.

The state closed the books on the 1994 fiscal year, which ended June 30, with an extra $60 million, Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein said.

Mr. Goldstein put the current surplus in context when he said it's enough money to keep state government running for less than two days.

Still, it's the largest surplus since 1988, a few years before the recession took its full toll on the state's budget and economy. Last year's surplus was $10.5 million. The previous two years, the governor and state legislature had to slash budgets and raise taxes before the books balanced.

Under a law passed last year, the current surplus is headed toward the state's "Rainy Day" account, a reserve fund available if government is running in the red, said William S. Ratchford II, the legislature's chief financial adviser. State officials relied on the Rainy Day fund to get Maryland through the recession.

The surplus represents about half of 1 percent of the $12.7 billion budget for 1994.

Mr. Goldstein credited an increase in jobs, higher lottery RTC revenues and improved consumer confidence for the surplus.

"This surplus was fueled by several different factors, including many that point to our continued recovery from a recession that was especially severe in Maryland, Mid-Atlantic states and New England," he said.

Maryland gained 21,300 jobs during the budget year, about 1 percent of the current total statewide, the comptroller said.

The largest single reason for the surplus is the Maryland Lottery, state government's third-largest source of revenue.

The lottery brought in $353 million, almost $39 million or 12 percent more than expected.

Part of the increase can be traced to the improved popularity of Keno, an electronic numbers game played in bars, stores and restaurants since January 1993.

The lottery has benefited this year from aggressive promotions and efforts to move more lottery terminals into stores and taverns.

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