More Md. surpluses forecast

$505 million in 2006 and $611 million in 2007, Schaefer says



Comptroller William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that the state could see $503 million in surplus revenue in fiscal year 2006 and $611 million in 2007.

Schaefer released a list of programs he would like to see benefit from the current and projected budget surpluses, including health care for pregnant immigrants and nursing home funding for poor seniors.

The 2005 fiscal year that ended June 30 produced a $603 million surplus.

Schaefer said he would like to see $7 million committed to health care for pregnant legal immigrant mothers and their children; $42 million for nursing home funding for low-income seniors; $31.7 million for state employee prescription costs; and a cost-of-living allowance for state employees.

"We should be encouraged by the estimates, but plan responsibly for the future, giving back money to some very important programs while being cautious not to overextend ourselves," Schaefer said in a statement.

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., cheered the sunny fiscal projection, which came the day before Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Schaefer foe, is expected to formally announce his intention to run against Ehrlich. Fawell said the timing of Schaefer's announcement isn't important.

"What is important is that the governor's fiscal responsibility over the past few years is paying dividends," he said.

Fawell said the governor would take into consideration the comptroller's suggestions on how to spend the money.

David Roose, director of the Bureau of Revenue Estimates, said the state does a three-year forecast every September, and that yesterday's announcement was not out of the ordinary.

However, he did say that the numbers, because they are pro- jections at this point, are not always made public.

Roose said the revenue outlook for 2006 and 2007 is better than expected.

According to the comptroller's estimates, 2006 revenues are expected to grow 5 percent. In fiscal year 2007, revenue is expected to grow 4.4 percent.

Roose cautioned that while the numbers seem big, the state has plenty of programs that require more money.

"The revenue news is very, very good, but there are still pretty strong spending pressures on the state as well," he said.

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