Friday, September 9, 2016

If things are OK, why was our June checkbook $400 mil short?

This might be nothing, but I've noted some interesting numbers floating through Wisconsin's financial reporting system recently, and I don't mean the $85 million revenue shortfall in Fiscal Year 2016 that was revealed late last week.

I'm referring to the state's General Fund cash balance projections that came out in June with the projections (and past history) that came out in late July. It's not necessarily a one-to-one comparison to the General Fund balance that determines the "deficit or surplus" status of the state budget, but it does give you a good idea what is to come. And this disparity jumped out at me.

July 1 Cash balance
June projection $1,475.9 million
July 1 actual $1,060.3 million
Change from projection- DOWN $415.6 million

That’s not a small miss, and it appears to be split equally of being slightly more than $200 million below on receipts and slightly more than $200 million over on disbursements. That seems odd, especially given that June 30 and July 1 fell during the work week (so no delays due to the 4th of July weekend), although maybe there’s an easily explainable reason like an odd timing of the payment of some federal/state aids or an intentional delay in tax payments.

Then I looked at last week’s release of the “Temporary Reallocation of Balances” report to the Joint Finance Committee, and it states the following about the General Fund’s cash position in the first month of Fiscal Year 2017.
On July 25, 2016, the General Fund cash balance closed at a negative $196.77 million. The cash balance was negative through July 31, 2016, when it closed at a negative $146.31 million. On July 26, 2016, the cash balance closed at $217.09 million (its intramonth low).
This ending balance of -$146.3 million isn’t a huge shock, as it was only $8.9 million below what was projected in late July, indicating that payments and receipts were on-target. I haven’t seen any of the figures for August’s General Fund cash figures yet (the Walker Administration has become spotty with reporting these things), but the balance was projected to go back above $0 later in August and stay there through most of the end of the year, so no major concern there.

However, we still don’t know why we all of sudden ended up running more than $400 million behind the cash balance projections that came out 2 ½ months ago. And if June was a one-month timing blip, why July wasn’t a one-month springback to normal? Something doesn’t add up here, and I’m becoming more curious to find out what I’ll see in the state agencies’ budget requests as they come to Gov Walker’s office next week, as well as to find out what’s buried in the state’s Annual Fiscal Report next month.

1 comment:

  1. Government accounting is a curious enterprise. I wonder how many people even know that such reporting gets put out.

    I don't have time at the moment to dig into your links, but I'm going to find it. Thanks for posting them.