Is Maryland’s Budget Balanced?

Maryland’s constitution requires that its annual budget be balanced.  In principle it’s pretty simple.  Budgeted revenues from taxes, fees, etc. must not be less than budgeted expenses.

Last Monday the Maryland General Assembly went home claiming to have passed a budget balanced by cutting spending spending.  Well, the Democrat-controlled legislature didn’t cut spending – FY 2013 spending is $700 million higher than the FY 2012 budget.  Now the O’Malley administration is claiming that the “Doomsday Budget” isn’t even balanced.  According to a memo from Maryland Budget Secretary T. Eloise Foster, Maryland’s FY 2013 budget spends $70 million more than projected revenues.

House Speaker Michael Busch isn’t commenting.  The legislature’s top budget analyst, Warren Deschenaux, claims this is much ado about nothing:

"Lots of things happen to put a budget out of balance after it is passed," he said. "Bills failing can be one of them. We have mechanisms for dealing with that."

While Governor Martin O’Malley plays a very poor game of cat and mouse – hinting that he won’t call a special session to raise more tax revenue – the only alternative is to cut spending via the state’s Board of Public Works.  Given that annual state spending has risen almost $7 billion under O’Malley, it’s unlikely that O’Malley has the stomach to make cuts on his own.

Maybe Busch and Senate president Mike Miller knew exactly what they were doing when they allowed an unbalanced budget to pass with the legislative session coming to an end.

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