Maryland's surplus $90 million higher than state projected Comptroller says boost is result of tax collections that exceed expectations

June 09, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

Maryland's fiscal picture remains remarkably rosy as state revenues continue to significantly outpace projections made only three months ago, officials said yesterday.

During the fiscal year that ends June 30, the state has taken in almost $90 million more than had been projected as recently as March.

In all, thanks to Maryland's robust economy, state revenues are expected to be about $450 million higher than projected a year ago for the current fiscal year.

Much of the newest revenue surge is because of higher-than-expected income tax collections -- much of it on capital gains, said a spokesman for state Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein.

Lottery revenues are also exceeding projections, while sales tax collections are meeting expectations.

"It's remarkable that we're still in this expansion frame with no inflation," said Frederick W. Puddester, budget secretary for Gov. Parris N. Glendening. "The job growth has really picked up. We're still above the national average."

The governor and the General Assembly agreed during the past legislative session to devote much of the surplus to building projects, such as schools, that would not create burdens for the state.

Lawmakers also agreed to accelerate the five-year, 10 percent income tax cut that had been enacted last year, a move that will eat into the surplus. Even without tapping into the surplus, the strong budget allowed the state to significantly increase spending on health care and education.

The extra $90 million will go into a state reserve fund, and lawmakers will decide what to do with any surplus when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. That reserve fund now totals more than $700 million.

In all, the state budget for next fiscal year totals more than $16 billion.

State budget forecasters have been cautious in predicting the growth in state income tax collections, because much of the increase there is the result of capital gains from the soaring stock market.

The extra revenue is "great news, but it's not a permanent addition to the tax base," said Marvin Bond, a spokesman for Goldstein.

Pub Date: 6/09/98

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