Over the last year, we took action to reform government and to make it more responsive to the people of Massachusetts. We restructured bureaucracies and eliminated longstanding duplication. We refused to pass along our financial problems to the citizens. Instead, we produced a balanced budget on time and without raising taxes.
My FY05 Budget Recommendation continues on the same path to reform, and I'm pleased to present it to you once again in an easily readable, online format.
A year ago, our state was facing a fiscal crisis. Today, the state of our Commonwealth
is much stronger. With purpose and determination, we're moving again in the
We still face hard choices. But, if we stay on the road of reform, placing the interests of people first, we can do some good things this year.
In my budget, I have outlined a Legacy of Learning initiative to improve public education in Massachusetts. This program will allow us to build more schools, target resources to the bottom tenth of our school districts and give our top-performing MCAS scorers free tuition at our public colleges and universities.
Overall, my total budget for K-12 education grows by over $100 million. Higher
education grows by over $70 million. I am also proposing a modest increase in
In FY05 we are increasing Health and Human Services spending by approximately
$500 million or 5%. Some say that's not enough, but it reflects the necessary
reforms introduced in FY04 which have slowed the rate of growth of this part
of our budget. We will continue to be one of the most generous states in the
country when it comes to providing for those in need.
Now, you may ask, how can we do these things in such difficult financial circumstances? We can do these things because we will keep marching down the road to reform. When we eliminate waste in government, we can do more for people.
I'll ask the Legislature - again - to merge the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority with the Highway Department. That alone will save over $20 million a year and another $190 million in one-time money. Our choice is this: Do we waste $20 million of taxpayer money every year on two highway departments or do we invest in scholarships, schools and teachers? Let's choose our children.
There are many other areas ripe for reform.
The cost of construction in Massachusetts for schools and other municipal and state buildings is 20 percent higher than that in other states, even adjusting for our higher wages.
This excess is due to burdensome construction and bidding rules. Modernize these provisions and we can afford to build more schools with the money we save.
We need to reform state and municipal employment practices as well.
Right now, we virtually prohibit any private employer from competing for state work: state workers are given a monopoly. And monopolies mean inefficiency, waste and excess.
In addition to reform, my budget continues to pare back programs I believe are unnecessary, prone to abuse or simply lower priority.
I'm optimistic about our future. As the Legislature begins its debate over the budget for the coming fiscal year, let's keep in mind that we can make critical investments in our schools and our children if we have the will to make needed reforms to the way state government does business.
We started down the road to reform last year. This is no time to take our foot off the gas pedal. The people who elected us deserve the best government we can give them.