HEADLINES : Alaska, North Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming
Amid deficit gloom, some states enjoy surpluses
JUNEAU, Alaska-The budget questions that sent Alaska lawmakers into special session this year had nothing to do with austerity measures or disagreements over cuts to state agencies or programs.They just couldn't agree on what to do with all that extra money.
Resource-rich Alaska took in nearly $1.9 billion more than expected last fiscal year thanks largely to high oil prices and ended the fiscal year with an estimated $260 million surplus, an amount equal to nearly 4 percent of its general fund.
A handful of states -- led by those that enjoy bountiful energy reserves such as West Virginia, Wyoming and North Dakota -- have found themselves in similarly enviable positions, oases of optimism in an otherwise barren landscape of budget cuts and government layoffs. A few other states, including Massachusetts, South Carolina and Virginia, have combined slight increases in tax revenue with tight spending controls to produce modest surpluses.
In West Virginia, the surplus is going toward reserves, pension programs and debt. Wyoming put much of the extra money into savings after years of investing heavily in roads and schools.