Mass Senator Bob Hedlund says State budget grew 35% in 5 years

Under Deval Patrick’s tenure as governor, state spending has increased by nearly $10 billion dollars, from $27 billion to over $36.5 billion.

On Friday, July 11, Governor Patrick signed into law the fiscal year 2015 budget, his last budget as governor. With great conviction, I voted no for many reasons:

  1. Unsustainable Growth in State Spending:

Under Deval Patrick’s tenure as governor, state spending has increased by nearly $10 billion dollars, from $27 billion to over $36.5 billion. In just the last five years alone (FY10-FY15), the state budget has increased by 35%, or an average of 7% a year. And it’s been done on the backs of taxpayers. This level of government growth is unsustainable. The growth in spending for the FY 2015 budget is more than the original estimated new revenue agreed to by the Administration and legislative leaders.

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  1. Budget Continues to Leave Local Aid Behind

 

The last time our spending and policy habits got us in trouble and forced budget cuts, Local Aid took it on the chin. In total, between fiscal year 2009 and 2011, more than a half a billion dollars was slashed from Local Aid. Those cuts to Local Aid made up the bulk of total cuts. Of the $1.12 billion cut between the FY 2009 and FY 2010 budgets, 40% or $457 million came from Local Aid.

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Yet, of the 35% increase in the state budget since FY 2010, Local Aid has only seen a 5.7% increase. While the overall FY 2015 budget is 7.2% higher than the FY 2014 budget, Chapter 70 Education funding is only increasing by 2.3% and Unrestricted Local Aid by only 2.8%. This continues a long trend where cities and towns have been abandoned by the state. Local Aid as a percentage of municipal revenue has steadily declined over the last decade.

 

 

Despite Governor Patrick’s promise of property tax relief, homeowners have been left to make up for the state’s lack of commitment to cities and towns. As Local Aid had made up less and less of local revenues, the burden has fallen on property taxes. The local tax levy as a percentage of local revenues has steadily increased over the same period. Again, with one-party dominance, the property tax burden is sure to continue to increase.

 

  1. The Budget Drains the Rainy Day Fund during Sunny Forecast

Compounding the irresponsible growth in spending is the use of one-time sources of revenue, including $140 million from the state’s rainy day fund. The fact is, it’s not raining. State revenues are currently growing by five to six percent above last fiscal year. Yet, they could not live within those means.

  1. Fair Tax Relief Rejected

The biggest impact on taxpayers has come from the numerous new and increased taxes passed in recent years. At first, taxpayers were told they were needed to prevent more cuts. But now those new and higher are paying for the out of control growth in spending. The answer on Beacon Hill is always more spending and never lower taxes.

With state revenues growing beyond expectations, I felt it was time to give taxpayers and small business owners some of their hard earned money back. I co-sponsored several amendments to bring about some tax relief. No matter how big or small, every vote for tax relief was rejected, largely along party lines. They rejected estate tax reform. They rejected lowering certain business filing fees. They rejected exempting new and small businesses from corporate excise taxes. They rejected a gradual rollback of the sales tax. They rejected the repeal of the infinite gas tax. They rejected lowering the income tax by just one-tenth of a percentage each of the next three years.

One other frustrating vote during debate came when I offered an amendment to make sure that the state tax you pay on a new cell phone is based on what you paid for the phone, not the store’s wholesale price.  The amendment was rejected based on leadership’s argument that the state couldn’t afford the $12 million loss in revenue.

This epitomizes the core problem on Beacon Hill. Legislators see it as their money, not yours.

The concern among legislative leaders wasn’t about you paying taxes on money you didn’t spend; it was about them keeping your money, regardless of fairness, to spend on pet projects and new programs.

The $12 million they say the state can’t do without represents 1/32 of 1% of the total state spending passed.  Adding to the frustration is that they argued we couldn’t afford this tax fairness at the same time they agreed to add $130 million in spending during debate.

 

 

  1.  Paying for the Administration’s Mistakes

 

The failures of this Administration are numerous and costly. Taxpayers are the ones left on the hook for paying to fix the failures. The lack of proper management coupled with the Administration’s lack of oversight has costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, and more tragically, has even led to the deaths of several people.

 

One of the biggest ongoing failures is the Massachusetts Health Connector fiasco. Recently taxpayers had to pay $35 million just to fire the company that created the website that doesn’t work. That was on top of $17 million they already got for the shoddy work.

 

As a result of the faulty Connector website, 160,000 Massachusetts residents are on temporary public Medicaid coverage even though they don’t qualify for MassHealth. Overall, this failure will cost Massachusetts taxpayers over $100 million dollars this year.

 

The Administration’s failures don’t stop there. We have the crime lab scandal that, alone, will end up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention put dozens of criminals back on the streets. There is also the failure of the unemployment and DOR websites, and the numerous failures with DCF, and the uncovered waste and fraud with our welfare program, and the Evergreen Solar debacle, to name a few. Each one costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

 

Despite the record of waste, fraud and management failure, we still have not done enough to protect taxpayer’s money. We need better oversight and more meaningful reform. This budget has neither.

 

I understand why many of my colleagues voted for the budget. First, the budget has a lot of money for pet projects that come in handy during an election year. More seriously, the budget did increase funding to address a growing need within a few important services, like mental health and substance abuse. It also fully funded the Special Education Circuit breaker account. But, in the end, the overspending, misplaced priorities and lack of reform far outweighed any of the benefits from this budget.

© Copyright 2014 Tanna Bk, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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