Panel to set legislature's budget goal to cut gap

The General Assembly's Joint Committee on Spending Affordability is expected to set a goal Thursday night of trimming the state's long-term budget shortfall -- known in as the structural deficit -- in half during the legislative session that begins in January.

If the lawmakers were to keep to their previous plans, the cut would amount to roughly a $500 million reduction in projected spending.

The legislature set out to erase the structural deficit in three annual stages last year, starting with what was then a one-third cut. To stay on that course it would have to cut the remaining gap by half this year and eliminate the remainder next year.

Eliminating the structural deficit now, rather than putting that goal off, could help Maryland cope with revenue reductions in future budget years resulting from expected federal spending cuts in such areas as defense. Maryland is one of the states that is most dependent on federal spending for its economic vitality.

To find cuts, legislators are likely to have to look at such sensitive areas as Medicaid and education -- simply because that's where the money is.




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