Friday, July 1, 2011
The budget that is being sent to Governor Patrick today includes many important initiatives that will assist our cities and towns in balancing their budgets without jeopardizing essential municipal services. The changes in municipal health insurance represent a major step forward for communities that have been struggling with rising premium costs, while the funding increases in special education and regional school transportation will provide much-needed relief to local school districts. We also seek to hold local aid harmless by requiring that a percentage of the state’s surplus at the end of FY11 revert back to our cities and towns for use in FY12.
Despite these positive accomplishments, I remain deeply concerned about what was not included in the conference committee report. The Senate Republican Caucus put forth a series of reform measures to spur economic development, reduce the cost of government, and provide tax relief to Massachusetts residents, but many of these items did not make it into the final budget, including:
• a broad-based job creation tax credit to encourage businesses of all sizes to increase and maintain their workforce;
• the establishment of a Commonwealth Competitiveness Council to promote more joint ventures between the public and private sectors and deliver state services more cost-effectively;
• a requirement that a cost benefit and job outcome analysis be provided to the Legislature before the state issues any grants totaling $500,000 or more to a private company;
• a crackdown on the use of confidentiality agreements by state agencies;
• the creation of a searchable website allowing the public to find out how their taxpayer dollars are being spent;
• proposed rollbacks in the sales and income taxes to 5 percent;
• a one-week meals tax holiday to generate additional revenue for local restaurants;
• a requirement that the governor report on all salary increases and decreases in FY11, as well as any planned increases or decreases for FY12; and
• comprehensive immigration reform that includes worker documentation certification, increases fines for using a fake ID to secure employment, and gives legal residents priority over unauthorized aliens in securing public housing.
These are just a few examples of the missed opportunities the Legislature failed to pursue in the FY12 budget. But the Senate Republican Caucus will continue to raise these and many other important issues in the weeks and months ahead because the state continues to face many daunting fiscal challenges that need to be faced head-on if we hope to spur a lasting economic recovery and sustainable spending practices for the future.
To view the budget in its entirety please click here.