When exploring the matter of budgeting, it is necessary to be able to identify whether or not a budget is balanced, and if it is not, what the steps might be in order to allow for that to occur. In addition, if there is a surplus, recommendations must be made regarding what to do with the excess amount of funds. Furthermore, a review of the budget process allows for an indication as to whether there is a higher potential for a balanced budget in general, based on the effectiveness of that process. A review of the Maryland budget and Maryland budget process allows for a test of these skills and capabilities.
The state of Maryland is currently operating on the 2018 budget, as of the first of July, 2017 (Department of Budget and Management, 2017). Looking first to the current budget, the operating budget for the state of Maryland is operating at a deficit for fiscal year (FY) 2018 (State of Maryland, 2017a; 2017b). Operation of the budget with a deficit indicates that the budget is not balanced, that the state has allocated more spending money than it currently has available, negating any potential possibility for a budgetary surplus.
A budget will, in an ideal world, always balance out, meaning that the money being spent is equal to or less than the amount of money being spent (Bohn & Inman, 1996). The majority of states have limitations at the level of deficiency allowed within the budget in order to curtail overspending at the state level, and it is these limitations that have caused the State of Maryland (2017b) to include in the 2018 budget a list of deficiency appropriations and where the funding will be pulled from in order to address the deficiencies within the current budget (Bohn & Inman, 1996).
Admittedly, no matter the size of the budget, throughout the course of a lifetime, every person is likely to come across a situation wherein there is an unexpected expense or expenditure, creating a deficit. From an individual standpoint, a person may have just started a new job after being laid off for a time, only to have a tire go out; the person needs the tire to get to the job, so they might place the new tire on a credit card, creating a deficit in their financial state, but allowing them to move beyond the issue. A company may find itself, like some of those in Texas that were operating without flood insurance, in a situation where there is a high deficit due to unexpected costs associated with cleanup. By the same token, a state may find itself faced with unexpected costs and temporarily operate at a deficit in order to correct a particular situation.
Maryland’s budget process is one that is clearly and concisely detailed in section 52 of the Maryland Constitution (Maryland Manual On-line, 2017) and which is presented in greater specificity in the legislative handbook of the state, revised three years ago (Gray, Jackson, Kramer, & Zimmerman, 2014). The process requires that the office of the governor estimate the FY budget for the following year and submit it no later than the third Wednesday of January (Maryland Manual On-line, 2017). Additional departments have been created, though none since the mid-1940s, that were tasked with working to ensure that the budget would be as efficient and as accurate as possible, in spite of the fact that it must be prepared more than a year in advance with six months to review prior to its implementation (Gray et al., 2017). This process means that there may often be an anticipated deficit, but steps are taken to identify where the funds would come from, at the state level, should the monies be needed.
It is as balanced as it can be in light of the manner in which it is created, and modifications are made throughout the year as needed (Gray et al., 2017). I do not believe that I could do a better job, with my current knowledge level, even with access to the same documents as the budget committee, than is currently being done. If there was ever a surplus, I would utilize those monies to address the less pressing concerns identified for the state, but I would hold off on doing so until the conclusion of the FY so as to ensure that there would not be a later deficit as a result of hasty spending.