RI finished 2011-12 fiscal year with surprise $21.7M surplusSeptember 4th, 2012 at 3:51 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
When is a surplus not a surplus? When lawmakers already spent it.
Rhode Island finished its 2011-12 fiscal year with a $115.5 million surplus, State Controller Marc Leonetti told lawmakers in a letter [pdf] last week. But before reduction-ravaged state agencies start popping champagne corks, they should take a closer look at the numbers.
The budget lawmakers adopted in June included a projected $93.9 million surplus, so they already allocated that extra cash to various programs in this year’s spending plan. The additional surplus revealed last week – that is, the amount of money lawmakers weren’t expecting and thus didn’t already spend – is a lower $21.7 million.
The budget surplus is a good sign as far as it signals a stronger-than-expected economy is producing more tax revenue and the tax-and-spending blueprint isn’t out of whack. But considering Rhode Island’s large projected deficits in future years, an extra $21.7 million isn’t a game-changer.
Update: Another way to look at it – the $21.7 million surplus will cover less than 15% of the $148.9 million deficit already projected for next year (2013-14). There’s still a $127.2 million deficit projected for next year even with this additional money.