The state ended the budget year with a surplus of about $93 million, but Gov. Paul LePage complains it was all spent as soon as it was counted.
The state surplus is made up of revenues in excess of estimates, unspent balances and unallocated funds carried forward. It totals about $93 million for the budget year that just ended.
At his town meeting in South Paris Wednesday, the governor expressed his frustration that the surplus is now gone.
“For the sixth consecutive year since I have been the governor we have had a surplus,” LePage says. “Unfortunately the surplus disappeared overnight because we have a thing in Maine called cascading.”
The cascade the governor is referring to is a budget process that allocates any excess funds for specific purposes. Lawmakers rejected the governor’s proposal to put most of the money into the state’s rainy day fund.
Most of the money was carried forward into the new budget year. Some money did go to other reserves and some also was allocated to pay down unfunded health benefits for retired state workers. In addition, $13.4 million was used to pay for the Public Utilities Commission fund used to bail out the ailing biomass industry.
Finance Commissioner Richard Rosen says the state is continuing to see revenues come in on target as the state’s economy improves.
“What we are seeing in terms of the economic activity is low unemployment, so high employment, improvement in wages a lot of consumer activity going on, shopping, traveling,” he says.
As for the new budget year that started July 1, Rosen says all of the major sources of tax revenue, the income taxes and the sales tax, are showing growth over a year ago. He says the good weather and low gasoline prices could also bolster state tax receipts over the summer.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.