AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine lawmakers were told Monday that the state’s fiscal picture is looking brighter thanks to a bump in revenues as the Appropriations Committee prepares to close an $80 million-plus gap in the state budget.
Revised figures show nearly $49 million in unanticipated revenue through this two-year budget cycle, which ends in mid-2013. It’s money that can be applied to an $82 million hole in MaineCare, the state’s Medicaid program, when the Legislature returns from a monthlong recess May 15 to balance the state’s books.
With the new revenues coming in, cuts in state social programs that might have had to occur to balance the state’s $6 billion two-year budget may not have to be as severe as anticipated.
“It certainly helps, but there are going to be some significant challenges,” said Rep. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, a member of Appropriations. “It’s not going to take care of the whole thing, so there will still be some very difficult decisions we’ll have to make.”
Addressing the Appropriations Committee, associate state finance commissioner Michael Allen said new projections also translate into $26 million in unanticipated tax revenues in the two-year budget cycle that starts in mid-2013.
Allen said the newest figures reflect an uptick in consumer spending beyond what analysts had anticipated a few months ago.
“There’s just a lot of strength across the board, automobile sales, building materials, in some cases by double digits,” Allen said before his presentation to Appropriations.
Revenue figures through the end of March, closing three quarters of fiscal 2012, were $35 million over budget and showed a marked improvement over the same nine-month period in the previous fiscal year, according to the state Department of Administrative and Financial Affairs.
Much of the increase is attributed to better-than-expected sales and corporate tax collections. A portion also came from January receipts that had not been included in previous estimates.