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Posted at 3:47 PM ET, 12/15/2010

Revenue estimates in Md. improve a smidgeon

By John Wagner

In such dire budget times for state governments, this proved enough to qualify as good news Wednesday in Maryland: Revenue projections for this year and next are no worse than they were back in September.

In fact, for the current 2011 fiscal year, analysts are now projecting $57 million more in tax collections and other revenue than thought a few months ago.

In the context of Maryland's $13.2 billion general fund budget, $57 million isn't a lot -- but it's better than the repeated write-downs experienced in the recent recession years.

Meanwhile, at Wednesday afternoon's meeting of the Board of Revenue Estimates, the projection for the coming 2012 fiscal year was revised downward -- but just ever so slightly -- by $8.7 million .

On the whole, "this is good news," declared Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who chairs the three-member panel.

Nancy K. Kopp (D), the state treasurer and another panel member, also characterized the figures as "good news."

"Welcome news" is how it was put by Gov. Martin O'Malley's budget secretary, T. Eloise Foster, the third member of the panel.

The numbers don't significantly change the size of a $1.2 billion budget shortfall confronting the state in 2012, Foster noted.

O'Malley (D) underscored that point as he addressed reporters after the panel's meeting. He is preparing a budget proposal due to the legislature next month that will include hundreds of millions of cuts to state programs.

"I think this year is going to feel a lot more painful than the last two," O'Malley said. "There are no easy sources left."

O'Malley also shared his office's goal for a buyout program recently offered to state employees: reducing the workforce by 1,500 employees.

State workers who agree to participate in the "voluntary separation program" will receive a lump-sum payment of $15,000, another $200 for each year of service and three months of health benefits.

"There sure have been a lot on inquiries about it," O'Malley said.

By John Wagner  | December 15, 2010; 3:47 PM ET
Categories:  Governor, John Wagner  
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