AUGUSTA (AP) – State officials back from a trip to Wall Street don’t expect to lose ground with the bond rating agencies but aren’t counting on winning upgrades, Gov. John Baldacci’s finance chief said Friday.

“We’re double A across the board,” Commissioner Rebecca Wyke of the Department of Administrative and Financial Services said Friday following the return of the Maine fiscal team from New York. “If I had to guess, I’d say we’re going to stay the same.”

Updated ratings from three rating agencies are expected around the middle of next month.

In pitching state government’s performance, the team comprised of Wyke and other administration officials along with Treasurer David Lemoine and his deputy Barbara Raths sought to highlight five factors, as outlined in a detailed presentation:

“Debt remains conservative; Maine tracks national economy; Fiscal management continues to show positive results; Working political consensus remains largely intact; Broad-based taxes unchanged.”

Wyke said Friday that approaching the June 30 close of the current fiscal year, General Fund revenue projections appear generally on course and that possibly negative Tax Day news that some had feared had not materialized.

“No April surprise,” she said.

Last week, the Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said 27 states are reporting projected budget shortfalls next year totaling at least $39 billion.

And a report being released Friday by the National Conference of State Legislatures said that for the upcoming fiscal year, 23 states and Puerto Rico already are reporting budget shortfalls totaling $26 billion.

Maine lawmakers gave final approval on March 31 to a state budget rewrite that offset a $190 million shortfall in Maine’s $6.3 billion two-year General Fund budget by making a range of cuts with no new broad-based taxes and without drawing on emergency reserves.

Facing fiscal woes, states including Alabama, Arizona, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada and Wisconsin plan to tap their rainy day funds, which contain money set aside for fiscal emergencies, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In Maine, state reserves remain at about $160 million and due to late legislative action before last week’s adjournment could go up by another $10 million if the fiscal year ends with a surplus.


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