- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 17, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | Maryland’s revenue projections dropped another $77 million in the latest revision released Wednesday, but state officials saw signs of a turnaround because the decline wasn’t nearly as steep as in previous revisions during the recession.

The projections released by the Board of Revenue Estimates cover fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011. The revisions marked down the current fiscal year’s revenues by about $15 million, with fiscal 2011 revenues knocked down about $62 million from earlier estimates.

Despite the decrease, the revision represents a much lighter revenue write-down than one made by the board in September, when revenues were $683 million less than previously expected for fiscal 2010 alone.

“It appears at this point that expectations of the economy have now caught up with reality, so it’s good news,” said David Roose, the board’s executive secretary. “Even though the estimates are being revised downward, they’re being revised downward by a relatively modest amount.”

Nevertheless, Maryland is once again running into serious budget challenges.

Gov. Martin O’Malley will submit a budget in January to the legislature to account for a $2 billion budget deficit.

Mr. O’Malley cited the latest estimate and ongoing budget problems as evidence that states need more federal help.

“Without additional help from Washington, our state and many other states will be in a position of adding to the unemployment woes rather than helping to battle joblessness,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat.

Comptroller Peter Franchot said his initial reaction to the latest revenue estimates was “one of great relief.” But he cautioned it would take a very long time for the state to recover from loss of jobs, homes and financial security from the recession.

“In other words, the blizzard may have let up, but we’ve only begun to dig ourselves out,” Mr. Franchot said.

Mr. O’Malley also noted positive signs in the economy while describing the challenges ahead. As an example, he cited rising home sales, even though they are selling at lower values. Mr. O’Malley also said Maryland has created more jobs than it has lost in three of the past six months, although it appears jobs were lost in November.

“It’s my hope that we’re starting to see the job situation start to level off a bit, but until we are able to put a couple of months of solid job creation months under our belt we’re still in for some really rough and challenging times, especially with the upcoming budget,” Mr. O’Malley said.

That means more cuts.

“It’s going to be very painful and that’s why we really need additional federal help,” Mr. O’Malley said.

T. Eloise Foster, Mr. O’Malley’s budget secretary, said the budget is still in the works, and she declined to comment on any details.

“We’re still putting together scenarios,” Ms. Foster said. “We’re still putting together plans.”

The necessary spending reductions will come on top of myriad rounds of budget cutting in Annapolis since Mr. O’Malley took office in January 2007. The Board of Public Works already has cut more than $1 billion in the current fiscal year, which began in July.

Mr. O’Malley has been calling for more federal aid in order to help states avoid more layoffs.

“You’ve seen the sad situation of more people applying for food stamps and yet we have fewer staff to even process the critical need of food for families who have to turn to assistance,” Mr. O’Malley said. “So we really have our work cut out for us, and we need our federal government to help us once again and I’m hopeful they will.”

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