12/28/2011 01:22 pm ET

Michigan Budget Surplus: Is $800 Million Projection Premature?

There isn't a final number on Michigan's budget surplus for the 2011 fiscal year yet, but legislators are already debating how (or whether) to spend the leftover money.

Michigan's fiscal year ended Sept. 30, and the state budget office revealed a possible surplus. Estimates ranged from $1.2 billion, as reported by the Gongwer News Service, to more than $800 million, as reported by the Associated Press.

More than $200 million in appropriated funds weren't spent in 2011, according to Gongwer News Service. Some of that money came from one-time lapses in department budgets that don't necessarily reflect longterm budget gains.

Gov. Rick Snyder and other Michigan Republicans are saying it's too soon to start spending the extra money, according to the Associated Press.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw Township) told Gongwer News Service that most of the surplus funds are already committed for next year.

Others think the state should use extra funds to support schools, especially after drastic cuts to both k-12 and higher education earlier this year.

Just days after the estimated surplus was released, the state Board of Education passed a resolution recommending Michigan spend any significant portion of a surplus on education.

Snyder's controversial $46-billion budget plan for 2012 uses School Aid funds to balance the General Fund, resulting in $300-per-student funding losses. K-12 public schools got a 2.2 percent cut, with 15 and 4 percent cuts for universities and community colleges, respectively.

2012's education cuts follow a $100-per-student reduction this year.

Michigan's 2011 fiscal year started in October 2010 with a $277 million surplus.

The 2011 surplus funds might not get earmarked until early next year, when Snyder presents his budget for 2013 in February. The exact amount of this year's surplus won't be available until the state officially closes the books on 2011 at the end of March.