Maryland received good budget news yesterday: the projected gap between revenues and expenses has shrunk to its lowest level for the state budget now being prepared by the governor.
The estimated shortfall is currently at $311 million in a spending plan of about $24 billion, the General Assembly's chief budget analyst, Warren G. Deschenaux, said yesterday. That is down almost $70 million in less than three weeks.
Deschenaux said the state was receiving more money than expected from businesses paying taxes they previously avoided by shifting assets to shell corporations in Delaware.
The legislature established an amnesty program to forgive companies from paying taxes dating before 1997, and to eliminate interest and penalties from 1997 to now.
Lawmakers and analysts called the shortfall reasonable compared with recent years. When Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took office early last year, he had to fill a $1.2 billion gap.
The governor by law must submit a balanced budget to the General Assembly in January for the budget year that begins July 1.
Gaps between revenues and expenditures are typically filled with cuts to the growth rate of programs; Ehrlich has consistently opposed tax increases.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Del. Norman Conway, an Eastern Shore Democrat, said lawmakers would still look to trim from Ehrlich's budget, with the hope of restoring money to local governments cut in recent years.