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Maryland’s general fund falls short by $62.4 million

Maryland’s general fund didn’t quite reach the level expected at the end of fiscal 2013, Comptroller Peter Franchot announced Thursday.

In letters to the governor and members of the legislature, Comptroller Peter Franchot said there was little conclusive evidence that slots and poker would improve Maryland’s financial position.

Comptroller Peter Franchot says: ‘These revenue figures highlight an economy that remains exceedingly fragile and uncertain, and they remind us that we must proceed on a prudent financial course in the months ahead.’

General fund revenue was $14.9 billion in the fiscal year that ended June 30, falling short of the official state forecast by 0.4 percent, or $62.4 million. The figure reflects “sustained weakness” in consumer spending, wages and salaries, Franchot said in a statement.

Withholding tax receipts were $171.3 million less than that the state’s “modest” estimates, he said, growing at a rate of 2.5 percent versus an estimated 4 percent. Sales and use tax revenue was 0.7 percent higher than the previous year, a slower-than-inflation growth rate.

The general fund’s balance at the end of June was $510.7 million, of which $263.7 million has been allocated for operations in 2014. Franchot encouraged legislators in the General Assembly to save, rather than spend, the remaining $247 million unassigned fund balance.

“These revenue figures highlight an economy that remains exceedingly fragile and uncertain, and they remind us that we must proceed on a prudent financial course in the months ahead. With wages failing to keep pace with the cost of living for too many Maryland families, I would strongly urge my colleagues to resist creating any additional unpredictability for Maryland consumers and small businesses,” Franchot said.

Factors that contributed to the lackluster revenue include the expiration of the federal payroll tax break, the effects of sequestration on a workforce heavily dependent on federal jobs and a retroactive state income tax hike enacted during the General Assembly’s May 2012 special session, Franchot said.