State’s projected budget surplus continues to swell

Legislators received another monthly dose of good budget news this week.

The state is on target to end the 2016-17 budget year with a $132.5 million surplus — well ahead of the $48.4 million cushion lawmakers wrote into the budget when they adjourned the 2016 session in March.

One reason for the windfall: State tax collections continue to outpace projections. Through October, and the first four months of the 2016-17 budget year, revenue collections were $36.8 million ahead of projections. And for this four-month period, revenue collections are up 9.6 percent from 2015, according to the latest budget update from the state’s Division of Financial Management.

The October revenue report continues an upward trend, as the 2017 Legislature nears. After August revenues were tallied, DFM projected an $111.6 million surplus; after September, that number had grown to $119.1 million.

The December report should offer a more complete picture — since it will reflect agencies’ supplemental budget requests to cover unexpected expenses for 2016-17.

But if a big surplus holds heading into the 2017 session, this could set the stage for a lengthy debate over priorities — such as K-12 spending or tax cuts.