State bean counters report that state agencies gave back about $75 million that they didn’t spend in the most recently completed fiscal year. That’s up from last year, but it’s about a third of what they gave back two years ago.
Each year the governor and lawmakers count on state agencies having money left over at the end of the fiscal year. When agencies don’t spend the money, it goes back to the treasury and can be appropriated for things like schools, health care, parks and prisons the next year. When times are good, lawmakers can also try to set it aside to cut taxes.
Sometimes the “lapses,” amount to a lot of money. Two years ago, Gov. Sonny Perdue saw tough times coming and started cutting back before the recession hit. So at the end of fiscal 2008, the agencies returned $203 million in unspent money.
Last year, Perdue withheld payments to agencies to make sure the state didn’t run out of money. Agencies gave back only $57 million.
By the end of fiscal 2010 on June 30, state agencies had been through more than two years of budget cuts. The governor and lawmakers had trimmed about $3 billion in spending over that time. Still, agencies had $75 million left over.
The agency with the biggest budget, the Department of Education, lapsed $12 million in fiscal 2009 and $9 million last year. More than half of the lapsed money – $42.7 million – came from the agency that runs the Medicaid health care program.
Any lapses are good news for Gov.-elect Nathan Deal and lawmakers, who are facing a budget shortfall with estimates ranging from $1.2 billion to $2 billion with little money in the bank.