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I often read about there being an $800 million deficit or revenue gap or shortfall in the state budget. What does this figure mean?

The figure refers to the gap between how much state budget experts say the state will take in during fiscal year 2004 and how much the state plans to spend. The gap is now pegged at $858 million, but that includes assumptions in spending that may not occur.

Fiscal year 2004 runs from July 1, 2003, until June 30, 2004. When the Legislature starts its session in January, its main duty will be putting together a budget for fiscal 2004.

According to budget projections, the state will need to allocate $5.237 billion in fiscal year 2004, and will take in $4.379 billion, thus the $858 million gap. But that spending plan assumes the state will maintain a 7.5 percent year-end balance, pay for higher education reforms, replenish highway department funds and make several other appropriations that have yet to be approved.

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