As far as the Legislature and governor are concerned, they have done the work necessary to close out fiscal year 2020. But, for the state's comptroller, the work is just beginning.
Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday signed a $425 million supplemental budget wrapping up fiscal 2020, the budget year that ended June 30, though he returned with an amendment one section establishing a fund to maintain proceeds from litigation related to the opioid epidemic.
State tax collections in fiscal 2020 came up about $693 million short of expectations, mostly driven by an evaporation of sales tax revenue, but Baker and the Legislature were able to close the books without tapping into reserves, in part, because state spending, which is managed by the executive branch, was slowed in the spring as the COVID-19 pandemic upended state programs.
Now that Baker has signed the supplemental budget, Comptroller William McNamara can begin compiling an annual financial report that already is overdue. Every year, the state comptroller must finalize the books and file the state's annual Statutory Basis Financial Report by Oct. 31, but the comptroller cannot prepare the report until the Legislature passes, and the governor signs, a closeout supplemental budget. That process has turned somewhat ugly in recent years as the Legislature has delayed passage of the final budget until November.
"While we are focused on meeting deadlines on all significant reports, I am especially concerned that we will miss a deadline set by statute, as is the case for the SBFR. I believe that the circumstances this year are truly extraordinary," McNamara wrote in a letter to Ways and Means Committee leaders late in October.
"In future years, I hope that the SBFR, and the preceding steps on which it depends, can be managed to make delivery on or before the deadline possible."
In September, McNamara acknowledged that it was unlikely the Legislature would put a bow on fiscal 2020 in time for him to prepare the report by Oct. 31, because of the havoc of the COVID-19 pandemic, but said he was hopeful that he would be able to have the report done by mid-November.
"Speaking very frankly, if we could match 2018 and 2019, that might not be ideal, but certainly that would be something that we would like to do. Our goal would be to hit 10/31, but we certainly are hoping to get it out; if not, then as soon thereafter," he said, referring to the Nov. 17, 2017, and Nov. 8, 2018, report filings.
In his letter to the Ways and Means Committee, McNamara said he was "not able to provide an expected delivery date for the SBFR," though the comptroller's office previously has said the process takes about two weeks from the governor's signing of the final supplemental budget.