Unless West Virginia state government ends the fiscal year on June 30 with $65 million in the bank, the fiscal 2013 budget approved by legislators this spring won't be worth the paper on which its line items are listed.
As has been predicted, such a dire situation is a distinct and troubling possibility.
State officials had expected a $100 million surplus at the end of the fiscal year. That is, they believed revenue for the year would exceed expenses by that amount.
So confident - or was it wishful thinking? - were they that legislators agreed to use $65 million of the surplus to fund the Medicaid program next year. Without that $65 million, the program helping tens of thousands of poor and disabled West Virginians with health care will not make it through fiscal 2013.
For several months during the year, it appeared the $100 million target would be hit with ease. Then, a few months ago, revenue began to lag. By the end of April, with only two months left in the fiscal year, the cumulative surplus was just $47 million. To hit the $100 million surplus, revenue for May and June will have to exceed original projections by $53 million.
At least $18 million more will be needed merely to cover the Medicaid budget for fiscal 2013.
Through executive branch planners say they remain confident the $100 million surplus will materialize, some in the Legislature are not so certain. The chairmen of both the state Senate and House of Delegates finance committees cite lagging coal severance tax revenues as a key reason for concern.
Within a few days, when revenue figures for this month become available, the outlook should be clearer. It would be nice to have confidence the executive branch budget experts - who in the past have achieved an admirable record for both realism and accuracy - are right.
If they are not, however, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin should begin thinking about a special legislative session, perhaps for this summer.
Headlines about lawmakers grappling with budget shortfalls probably are the last thing Tomblin and most legislators want just weeks before an election, but the needs of the state must come first.
And if a long-term revenue decline is brewing, action to adjust spending will have to be planned and taken soon.