[RICHARD] Local Delegation Needs To Lead As State Budget Crisis Worsens
Members of our legislative delegation should show leadership by asking their colleagues to at least temporarily suspend recent pay hikes and stipend increases until the worsening state budget crisis is resolved.
Revenue Commissioner Michael Heffernan says the 2.86 billion dollars in tax revenue collected in April was some 241 million dollars less than projected. Revenues were off by 2.8 percent or 83 million dollars from April of last year. The State House News Service says the shortfall for the fiscal year that ends next month is more than 462 million dollars...more than double what it was at the end of March.
The problem is not a new one. The government continues to spend more money than it takes in an so far lawmakers have been reluctant to reduce spending or raise additional revenue through taxation.
This alarming news comes as lawmakers are debating a 40 billion dollar budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1st. SHNS says revenue growth for the current fiscal year was anticipated to be around 3.1% but through March has been a mere 1.1% The budget for FY18 anticipates revenue growth of 3.9%. Lets hope the budget writers at both the executive and legislative levels consider more realistic growth estimates and adjust the budget accordingly.
State law says we must have a balanced budget before we conclude the fiscal year on June 30th.. Governor Charlie Baker is faced with having to make unilateral budget cuts between now and then or take money from the rainy day account in order to balance the books. Neither choice is desirable.
In December Governor Baker felt it necessary to increase the pay for lawmakers and all other constitutional officers, including himself. In January legislators gaveled in the new session by rushing through sharp increases in the stipends they receive and in some cases creating new stipends so that everyone could belly up to the feeding trough.
While the pay hikes and stipends are just a fraction of the state's overall fiscal problems it is symbolic of a government with misguided priorities. The political leadership on Beacon Hill should immediately call for a suspension of all pay and stipend increases until the budget is under control. The alternative may be to cut vital programs that the most vulnerable among us should not do without.
Here is hoping that Representatives Cabral, Koczera, Markey, Schmid and Straus and Senators Montigny, Roriques and Pacheco show leadership by recommending a freeze on pay and stipend increases until the budget crisis passes.
Editor's Note: Barry Richard is the afternoon host on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from Noon-3pm. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.