Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Legislative Failure on Budget

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center released its preliminary report yesterday and it doesn't look good - for the Massachusetts State Legislative Branch.

The budget released by the Conference Committee today appears to spend more, counting appropriations and transfers, than the amounts recommended by the House, the Senate, and Governor Patrick. While much of this spending is to finance vitally needed public services - additional police officers to protect public safety, investments in K-12 and higher education that restore funding which had been cut to pay for the state tax cuts of the 1990s, and funding for new immunizations for children - the budget fails to identify ongoing revenue sources to support this spending.

Following the budgets proposed by the House and the Senate, the Conference Committee draws heavily on reserves and one-time solutions to balance the budget - $609 million in one-time solutions in total. In addition, the budget appears to rely on significantly more Federal and other non-tax revenue than were identified in previous versions of the budget.

While the governor had proposed several reforms to the state corporate tax laws to reduce tax avoidance, these reforms were not adopted in the House or Senate version of the budget and therefore were not available to the Conference Committee.

The MBPC gets it - you don't spend money you don't have, at least in a year where we can afford to solve the budget. Governor Patrick laid out a completely balanced budget, without using one-time money, in a tough year. Next year promises to be even more difficult, as the housing market gets worse, while mortgage rates continue to climb and people continue to lose their homes from taking bad mortgages they couldn't afford. Those variable rates are going to have variable consequences: let's hope there aren't too many unlucky families in Massachusetts.
But, sadly, there are going to be a lot of them. And that's going to cost this state untold millions, all the while health insurance rates will continue to climb. Cities and towns are slowly going bankrupt, closing schools, libraries and laying off teachers just to get out of the red this year. Next year will be even worse, even for some of the towns that have already closed schools.

Now, we have a Speaker of the House, Sal DiMasi, and a Senate President, Therese Murray, who are willing to use more band-aids to slow a gaping wound. It isn't even going to solve this coming year's problems, never mind the future's. No, we need to address the real costs: rising health care, no diversity of raising revenue, and secret formulas no one can understand. Governor Patrick has started to address those issues, but he's being thwarted every day by the fine folks from Beacon Hill. It's time those fine folks listen to the advice of the MBPC and cut the unfair and illogical corporate tax loopholes.

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