The following financial statements for FY 2013 (prior fiscal year), 2014 (current fiscal year) and 2015 (upcoming fiscal year) illustrate how the state arrives at a balanced budget for each respective year.
But what does “in balance”, in this instance, mean? And how do the financial statements go about determining whether the Commonwealth ends a year in balance in accordance with that definition?
The definition of statutory balance can vary significantly from that of GAAP or structural. Statutory balance is just that, a reflection of statutory conditions informed by the Legislative process. Statutory balance is outlined in state finance law (Massachusetts General Law Chapter 29 Section 5C).
Here is the definition of “balanced budget” according to state finance law (as recently amended by Section 43 of Chapter 38 of the Acts of 2013):
Section 5C. The comptroller shall annually, on or before October 31, certify to the secretary of administration and finance the amount of the consolidated net surplus in the budgetary funds at the close of the preceding fiscal year. Except as otherwise provided by law, the amounts so certified shall be transferred to the Commonwealth Stabilization Fund. This transfer shall be made from the undesignated fund balances in the budgetary funds proportionally from those undesignated fund balances; provided, however, that no such transfer shall cause a deficit in any of those funds. Before certifying the consolidated net surplus under this section, the comptroller shall, to the extent possible, eliminate deficits in any fund contributing to the surplus by transferring positive fund balances from any other fund contributing to the surplus.
So what is the “consolidated net surplus”?
“Consolidated net surplus”, the sum of the undesignated balances in the budgetary funds, except funds established by section 2H and section 2I and by section 2C of chapter 131 and section 35NN of chapter 10.
So what is a “budgetary fund”?
"Budgetary funds'' are state funds that are subject to appropriation as provided in section six (of Chapter 29).
Budgeted operating funds are subject to appropriation of the state Legislature and receive most of the non-bond and non-federal grant revenues of the Commonwealth. Two of the budgeted operating funds account for most of the Commonwealth’s spending: the General Fund and the Commonwealth Transportation Fund. Further background on each of the operating budgeted funds can be found in the “Budget Development” section of this document.
In essence, statutory balance is a measure of the fiscal condition of the Commonwealth that requires, after accounting for current year revenues and expenditures plus any designated revenues from prior years, stabilization deposit and funds carried forward, that the budgetary funds (i.e. General Fund, Commonwealth Transportation Fund, Massachusetts Tourism Fund, funds created in the “Expanded Gaming” legislation and new funds proposed in House 2) close the fiscal year with an ending balance in those funds greater than $0. Any remaining undesignated balances after the calculation of the Consolidated Net Surplus would be deposited into the Stabilization Fund. It is important to note that not all of the budgeted operating funds are used to calculate Consolidated Net Surplus. Some of them, such as the Inland Fisheries and Game Fund and the Stabilization Fund, are excluded by law from the calculation. Therefore any remaining balances in these funds at the end of the year do not count toward whether the Commonwealth remains in balance.
As stated earlier, we are speaking in terms of “statutory balance”, which means the Legislature can amend the definition of balance as it sees fit. For example, in recent years a portion of the consolidated surplus has been reserved for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center. The Governor’s FY 2015 budget provides $25 M in Consolidated Net Surplus funds for the Mass Life Sciences Center.
Now that we have a better understanding of what the term “balance” means in this instance, let us review a number of the lines from the FY 2015 Financial Statement to understand how balance is arrived at after accounting for all of the various inflows, outflows and statutory conditions placed on the state budget.
There are three main components to the Financial Statement: beginning balances, current year revenue and spending, and ending balances.
This line represents the undesignated closing balances in the budgeted funds from the preceding year. This line is comprised of any balance that remained in the budgeted funds that are not part of the Consolidated Net Surplus calculation. The Inland Fisheries and Game Fund is one such example.
This line reflects the FY 2014 ending balance of the Stabilization Fund. The purpose of the fund was to create and maintain a reserve to which any available portion of a consolidated net surplus in the operating funds would be transferred to and from which appropriations may be made for the following purposes: “(1) to make up any difference between actual state revenues and allowable state revenues in any fiscal year in which actual revenues fall below the allowable amount and (2) to replace the state and local loss of federal funds or (3) for any event which threatens the health, safety or welfare of the people or the fiscal stability of the commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions”.
This line includes the value of "Prior Appropriations Continued'' or "PACs'', which are re-appropriated unexpended and unencumbered monies from one fiscal year for the subsequent fiscal year. In essence, the Legislature appropriated money in one fiscal year that for one reason or another went unspent by the time that fiscal year closed. This money is then carried forward to be made available for expenditure in the next fiscal year.
This line represents unspent balances reserved for debt service (where money must remain with the escrow agent after being transferred there during the fiscal year). Due to certain covenants in debt service trust agreements (for example gas tax bonds) the Commonwealth is required to deposit specific streams of revenue with bond trustees. At the end of each fiscal year, this revenue is held by the fiscal agent and applied to the following year’s debt service. These amounts show as reserved or designated on the Commonwealth’s financial statements, and reduce the undesignated balances.
This section includes budgeted revenues and other financial resources pertaining to the budgeted funds, such as inflows from tax and non-tax sources, including Taxes, Federal Reimbursements, Departmental Revenue and Consolidated Transfers, that are directed by law to be accounted and reported to a fund which is subject to annual appropriation. Descriptions of each revenue category are provided below.
On or before January 15 of each year, the Secretary is required to develop jointly with the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means a consensus tax revenue forecast for the following fiscal year. The “Gross Tax Revenues” figure represents this consensus revenue estimate, upon which the three branches base their respective budgets.
Additional information regarding the Governor’s tax initiatives can be found in the “Budget Development” section and Section 1A of the Governor’s FY 2015 budget.
Additional information on this item can be located in the “Budget Development” section of the Governor’s FY 2015 budget.
The amount dedicated to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is the amount raised by a 1% sales tax (not including meals), with an inflation-adjusted floor.
Beginning in FY 2005, state finance law has required that the consensus tax revenue forecasts be net of the amount necessary to fully fund the pension system according to the applicable funding schedule, which amount is to be transferred without further appropriation from the General Fund to the Commonwealth’s Pension Liability Fund.
The amount dedicated to the School Building Authority is the amount raised by a 1% sales tax (not including meals).
The FY 2012 General Appropriations Act included a reform to the funding structure of the Workforce Training Fund by funding the program through an “off-budget” trust fund. Tax revenues are now transferred into the non-budgetary trust fund and the recently established trust fund is not subject to appropriation.
Federal revenues are collected through reimbursements for the federal share of entitlement programs such as Medicaid and through block grants for programs such as Transitional Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). The amount of federal reimbursements to be received is determined by state expenditures for these programs.
Departmental and other non-tax revenues are derived from licenses, tuition, fees and reimbursements and assessments for services.
Consolidated transfers reflect inflows to the General Fund from non-budgeted funds which include annual tobacco settlement proceeds received as part of the Master Settlement Agreement with tobacco companies, net revenues from the State Lottery Fund, fringe revenue to recoup the cost of various statewide benefits assessed on non-budgeted funds and revenues from the Commonwealth’s Unclaimed Property Division.
The Governor’s FY 2015 budget refines the policy on settlements or judgments in excess of $10 M to more closely align with the capital gains provision, which sets a threshold above which capital gains collections are unavailable to support budgetary expenditures and instead must be dedicated to the Commonwealth’s Stabilization Fund. While each of these judgments and settlements are one-time events there is a baseline amount of revenue that the Commonwealth collects from these on an annual basis and can responsibly budget against. This refinement would still preserve the primary goal behind the original provision: isolating volatile revenues and segregating them into reserves.
In FY 2015, 30% of the state’s annual tobacco settlement receipts, or $75.9 M, will be set aside to help prepare for this liability. This percentage will grow each year by 10 percentage points (e.g., in FY 2015, 30% of tobacco settlement payments), until 100%, or an estimated $254 M, is dedicated annually to help offset these costs.
This line represents all appropriations made through various appropriation vehicles – for the most part by the budget act and supplemental spending bills.
It also captures:
This row captures estimates for any potential further appropriations that may be requested through supplemental budget legislation for projected funding deficiencies.
This row reflects current year available spending that will be carried forward to be spent in the next fiscal year, in other words it represents current year PACs. PACs are reflected as a negative figure because they are reducing the current year spending total. The distinction between this row and the PACs carried in the “Direct Appropriations” row is that the latter is spending PACs from the previous fiscal year whereas the former is PACing money to the next fiscal year.
You may recall that the current year spending number does not count PACs as being spent; instead it counts PACs as a reduction in total available and therefore a reduction in total spending. However, showing PACs as unspent would increase the Undesignated Fund Balance in a misleading way since the extra balance created by the negative PAC entry is not undesignated and cannot be calculated as part of the Consolidated Net Surplus. The PACs must be considered spent or reserve for the calculation of surplus. This row accomplishes this by adding the PAC number back in so that we can have an accurate representation of “undesignated fund balances” that will ultimately be calculated as part of the Consolidated Net Surplus.
Prior to calculating the Consolidated Net Surplus, the state Comptroller is under law required to eliminate deficits in any of the budgeted funds by transferring positive balances, proportionally, in any other budgeted funds that contribute to the Consolidated Net Surplus:
All transfers specified in this section shall be made from the undesignated fund balances in the budgetary funds proportionally from those undesignated fund balances, but no such transfer shall cause a deficit in any of those funds; provided, however, that prior to certifying the consolidated net surplus in accordance with this section, the comptroller shall, to the extent possible, eliminate deficits in any fund contributing to the surplus by transferring positive fund balances from any other fund contributing to the surplus.
As mentioned earlier, state finance law excludes balances in certain budgeted funds from being used as part of the calculation of the Consolidated Net Surplus. This line eliminates those balances from the calculation as well as eliminating any funds that were reserved for future use, i.e., PACs.
Except as otherwise provided by law (see below), the amount certified as Consolidated Net Surplus by the Comptroller shall be transferred to the Stabilization Fund.
The definitions of these four rows are identical to their counterparts in the “Beginning Balances” section, albeit with different figures due to the current year activity that took place.