Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Budgets Nationwide Enjoying Record Surpluses

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

State Budgets Nationwide Enjoying Record Surpluses

Article excerpt

From "rainy day" funds that are overflowing to investment accounts that are swimming in black ink, state budgets across the country are bulging with record surpluses.

Surplus revenues in state budgets jumped 23 percent to a record $20.8 billion in 1995 for all states, according to a survey by the National Association of State Budget Officers in Washington. Even with new tax cuts in place and some budgets pared to the bone, states can still expect surpluses totaling $36.7 billion over the next two years, the survey projected.

The reasons: a healthier economy, sizzling stock market and careful government spending, economists concur.

In Massachusetts, such factors pulled the Bay State from a $21 billion deficit in 1991 to a $136.7 million surplus last year. This year, the state anticipates a windfall of $146 million to $206 million, which Gov. William F. Weld wants to return to taxpayers via a tax cut. The proposed relief would come in the form of a larger personal exemption on next year's tax forms and result in a $50 savings for a family of four with an annual income of $50,000. All told, Massachusetts has $460 million saved up over several years of surpluses for its "rainy day" fund.

"It's a national phenomenon," said Stephen Adams, senior policy analyst with the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, a fiscal watchdog. "Part of the explanation may be that the stock market has been stronger than anyone expected, resulting in higher capital gains revenue. States have also been better at controlling their spending."

Rather than quell political squabbles, though, the bulging coffers have touched off legislative fights over what the states should do with the unanticipated money.

As of April, leaders in 27 states were recommending tax cuts as a way to woo businesses and offset the widespread pruning of state budgets, the association said. …

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