A Foundation for Change: The Patrick-Murray Fiscal Year 2008 Budget


"What has distinguished us at every signature moment of our history is the willingness to look a challenge right in the eye, the instinct to measure it against our ideals, and the sustained dedication to close the gap between the two."
Governor Deval Patrick
Inaugural Address
January 4, 2007

Governor Deval Patrick's and Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray's fiscal year 2008 budget embarks on this challenge of building the Massachusetts of our ideals - a shining "city on a hill" for those who now, and for those who will in the future, call the Commonwealth home.

This is no small task. Massachusetts faces major challenges to providing the opportunity for each and every one of its citizens to live the American Dream: young talent and jobs driven away by the high cost of housing; public schools too often failing low-income children; soaring health care and college costs; rising property taxes; broken roads and bridges; and violence in our communities.

These challenges were years in the making and will require long-term solutions. They demand innovative policy approaches, coupled with a sustained commitment from our government and citizens to work towards the Massachusetts that can be.

The Patrick-Murray Administration's first budget lays the foundation for this better, stronger Massachusetts. It sets the Commonwealth on the path towards solutions to the challenges it faces and the fundamental change sought by its citizens.

This budget is a fiscally responsible blueprint for strengthening our economy, strengthening our communities, and strengthening our government. It makes much-needed investments in our future - in education, health care and economic development. It is balanced through carefully considered choices about public priorities and an emphasis on making state government more efficient, not through new taxes, gimmicks or rosy scenarios. And it not only closes a budget gap for this fiscal year but also puts the state on a more sustainable budget path for the future.

To be certain, this first budget cannot produce all the solutions and change that we need. That task will take multiple years, as the challenges facing Massachusetts are significant, and a combination of slowing revenue growth, escalating health care costs, and recurring spending commitments imposes financial constraints for fiscal year 2008.

But the Patrick-Murray Administration's fiscal year 2008 budget is an important and necessary first step - a foundation for sustained progress and change. It makes immediate progress in addressing our state's many challenges while laying the groundwork for far-reaching success over the next few years. In short, this budget puts the Commonwealth on a path to close the gap that Governor Patrick highlighted in his Inaugural Address in January - between the Massachusetts of today, and the "city on a hill" of our ideals.

Investing in our Future

The Patrick-Murray Administration's first budget proposes significant investments in major public priorities for Massachusetts - including improving educational opportunities for our children, expanding access to health insurance coverage, making our streets and neighborhoods safer, and providing much-needed property tax relief.

These investments will strengthen our economy and our communities. They will help provide opportunities for all of Massachusetts' citizens to succeed, make it more affordable to live and work in the Commonwealth, and bolster our state's ability to create and attract good-paying jobs.

World-Class Education

Education is the cornerstone of opportunity for each and every citizen of Massachusetts and of our entire state's competitiveness in an information-age economy. This budget invests in every level of our public education system to help offer our kids the world-class education that they need to succeed.

A New Partnership with Our Cities and Towns

The Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to building a new partnership with the Commonwealth's cities and towns - an active, collaborative, engaged partnership to promote job and business growth, good schools, affordable housing, high-quality roads and rail, and reliable public services. A key element of this partnership is relieving pressure on regressive local property taxes that have skyrocketed in recent years.

In return, Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray want our cities and towns to explore ways to make their own operations more efficient. For example, their proposal specifically requires underperforming local pension systems to invest their funds in the professionally managed state pension fund.

Safer Neighborhoods, A Safer Massachusetts

The Patrick-Murray Administration understands that public safety lies at the heart of strong communities and a strong Massachusetts. Its first budget invests in proven strategies to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe, offer young people alternatives to crime and drugs, and protect homeland security.

A Stronger Economy

In the past few years, Massachusetts' economy has struggled, lagging behind competitor states and the nation as a whole in job growth, and witnessing an exodus of young, talented workers to other states due to our high costs of living. This budget lays the groundwork for an ambitious agenda to reverse this trend, strengthening our state's economy by helping to create the right conditions for job and business growth in Massachusetts.

High-Quality, Affordable Health Care

There are few things more important to the people of Massachusetts than having access to high-quality, affordable health care. Health care is also essential to the health of the Commonwealth's economy, employing tens of thousands of people in providing care and pursuing cutting-edge research and development in life and health sciences.

Furthermore, the budget increases funding for health promotion and disease prevention programs administered by the Department of Public Health by $21.6 million over last year's budget. This maintains prevention funding that was enacted as part of health care reform last year.

Helping Those In Need

The hallmark of a caring Commonwealth is an enduring commitment to protecting the most vulnerable among us. This budget keeps faith with government's moral obligation to provide help, support and a chance for a better life for people who are facing adversity.

A Fiscally Responsible Budget

The Patrick-Murray Administration's first budget is a fiscally responsible, honest budget for Massachusetts. It pursues a balanced approach to paying for new and ongoing initiatives: restraining overall state spending growth, preventing abuse of the tax code, improving our state's cash and debt management, and protecting the balance of the state's Rainy Day Fund. It does not employ gimmicks or contain new taxes. This budget also begins to reduce the Commonwealth's structural deficit, putting the state on firmer financial footing for the future.

Cost-Effective, Consumer-Friendly State Government

The Patrick-Murray Administration's first budget marks a deep commitment to promoting greater efficiency and accountability in conducting the business of state government and delivering state services.

The reforms implemented by the Administration will make state government more nimble, entrepreneurial and responsive to the needs of the people of Massachusetts. They will also reduce costs, helping state government meet its core responsibilities and make much-needed investments in our future while living within limited means.

Breaking Down Silos in State Government

The budget funds a reorganized Cabinet structure that breaks down silos in state government and promotes more coordinated, cost-effective policy-making by state agencies. As explained above, the issues of housing, energy and working people would be elevated to Cabinet-level status in combination with other complementary issues. Governor Patrick is also promoting greater cooperation and coordination among state agencies through his Development Cabinet - a partnership between Cabinet Secretaries aimed at promoting business development, job growth and infrastructure improvements.

The work of reinventing state agencies will continue throughout the Patrick-Murray Administration. Among other things, the Administration will enlist government and business experts and others with strong management experience to help redesign agencies and enhance coordination and efficiencies in state government.

Greater Flexibility, Greater Accountability

The budget gives state agencies greater flexibility to put resources to their most effective use and achieve savings by delivering services to the public more efficiently.

Greater flexibility for state agencies must be matched by greater accountability for delivering positive, measurable results for the people of Massachusetts. The Patrick-Murray Administration will vigorously use performance management as a tool for making state government more effective and efficient - setting short- and long-term public policy goals, rigorously tracking the progress of state agencies toward achieving those goals, and holding agency heads and managers accountable in a fair and objective manner.

This process will not occur exclusively behind closed doors. Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray believe that state government is stronger and more accountable when the public is able to participate in setting state priorities and measuring progress towards achieving them. To help make the people of Massachusetts full partners in improving the performance of state government, they will establish a website that lists performance goals for state agencies, tracks their progress toward achieving those goals, and relates this information to budget decisions made by the Administration.

Smarter, More Business-Friendly Government

The Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to changing the way that government does business as a business. The budget supports a number of procurement reforms coordinated through the Operational Services Division (OSD) and other agencies aimed at making state government a smarter purchaser of goods and services. These reforms will not only achieve savings but also further other important public priorities - such as reducing energy consumption and creating more opportunities for small businesses to do business with the state. They include:

The budget also includes a new line item to encourage state agencies to accept online payments for their services - resulting in improved customer service, enhanced cash flow, fewer errors, and cost savings. Currently, most state agencies do not accept online payments due to credit card processing fees. The new line item will help pay those fees as a way to promote agency participation in e-commerce and e-government.

Protecting Program and Budget Integrity

The budget contains a number of provisions to protect the integrity of state programs and the state budget.

Enhancing Revenues

The budget takes common-sense steps to help state government recover revenues it is owed and achieve greater success in securing funding from the federal government to help address the needs of the people of Massachusetts.

A More Transparent Budget

The Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to building a stronger government, one that is able to provide the services our citizens need in ways that are effective, efficient and equitable. In turn, a stronger government depends on the vigorous participation of the people of Massachusetts in shaping government's priorities and holding it accountable for delivering on those priorities.

Public participation in setting the course of state government and holding it true to that path requires public knowledge and understanding of the Commonwealth's budget, the most important articulation of our shared priorities. To empower the people of Massachusetts to be full participants in our state's budget process, the Patrick-Murray Administration is taking a number of steps to make this year's state budget more accessible and understandable to the public.

A More Accessible Budget

This year's budget is being posted on the state's website at www.mass.gov/budget using a new format that is compatible with text-reading devices for the disabled. Moreover, in recognition of the fact that not everyone has access to the Internet, printed copies of the budget are being distributed for the first time since 2003.

A More Understandable Budget

This year's budget is not merely easier to find but also easier to read and understand. The budget includes:

Fewer "Outside Sections"

The state budget and budget process should not be a vehicle for making major legislative changes that are not directly related to the budget itself. Using "outside sections" for these purposes flies in the face of good government by avoiding informed deliberation and oversight through legislative hearings and public participation.

This budget includes only those "outside sections" with a clear and direct relationship to budgeting. Indeed, there are about 50 outside sections included in this budget - nearly half the number in last year's budget and the third lowest total in the last ten years.

CONCLUSION

Some see the state budget as the accumulation of policy decisions made over many months or years. Some see it as the outcome of negotiation and struggle between elected and appointed government officials. Some see the state budget as the translation of campaign promises into specific government programs. In fact, a budget is all of these things - but it is also more.

Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray view the filing of their first budget not as the end result of debate and discussion within their Administration, but instead as a focal point for an ongoing, public conversation about our shared priorities and aspirations. Indeed, they hope that this budget will spark spirited public discussion about how to build a stronger Massachusetts - a better place to live, work, raise a family, and grow a business.

After all, closing the gap between the Massachusetts of today and the "city on a hill" of our ideals starts not with any particular policy or program. It starts instead with citizens who care about our collective present and future - and are willing and able to shape it for the better.

Program and Policy Highlights

The Patrick-Murray Administration's first budget reflects a deep commitment to educating our children and keeping them safe; providing health care and housing to citizens of all income levels; developing a robust economy and a well-trained workforce; preserving our natural resources; and maintaining our public infrastructure. The following sections explore and highlight key initiatives in eleven program and policy areas.

Education: Achieving Excellence

Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray believe that education has the power to transform lives and open doors to opportunity and success. They also know that quality education is a key driver of our Commonwealth's competitiveness in an information-age economy. Their education agenda reflects high expectations coupled with adequate resources to give every student in Massachusetts, from pre-schoolers to post-graduates, the world-class education they need and deserve. The budget includes the following highlights:

Early Education

K-12 Education

Higher Education

Local Aid: Partnering with Cities and Towns

The Patrick-Murray Administration is initiating a new partnership with the Commonwealth's 351 municipalities. They intend this new partnership to be active and collaborative and to work in both directions between the State House and city and town halls. To formalize this new relationship, the Administration has already filed a comprehensive bill, the Municipal Partnership Act, to empower cities and towns to take creative and responsible steps to improve their fiscal health. In addition to the $200 million increase in Chapter 70 funds mentioned previously, the budget:

Public Safety: Keeping Our Neighborhoods Safe

The Patrick-Murray Administration recognizes the need to enhance public safety for the citizens and communities of Massachusetts. This budget invests in proven strategies for crime prevention, law enforcement, correctional facilities, offender rehabilitation and homeland security. The budget includes the following public safety highlights:

Economic Development: Strengthening the Economy

The Patrick-Murray Administration is committed to strengthening our economy, creating the conditions for sustaining job and business growth in Massachusetts. It is dedicated to promoting Massachusetts as a vibrant and innovative incubator and supporter of new and established businesses of all sizes and in all sectors.

Moreover, in combination with strategic investments in education, housing and labor and workforce development, this budget includes these economic development highlights:

Health Care: Ensuring High-Quality, Affordable Care

The Patrick-Murray Administration's first budget reflects a deep commitment to implementing Massachusetts' nation-leading health care reform law. Its health care investments aim to expand access to high-quality, affordable health insurance coverage. The budget also takes important steps to control state health care costs, which currently consume more than a third of the entire state budget. Health care highlights include:

High-Quality Health Care

Public Health

Mental Health

Human Services: Supporting Vulnerable Citizens

The Patrick-Murray Administration's first budget reflects a commitment to funding human services for Massachusetts' most vulnerable citizens. Our human services efforts are closely coordinated with our housing efforts in a strategic, cross-agency approach to addressing both temporary and chronic homelessness, and to building and maintaining affordable housing of all types. Other human services programs target the needs of special and vulnerable populations, including children, seniors, the disabled and veterans.

Safe and Sufficient Shelter

Protecting Children and Families

Caring for Seniors

Empowering Citizens with Disabilities

Saluting Our Veterans

Energy & Environment: Preserving and Sustaining Natural Resources

Massachusetts has always been a leader in environmental protection and preservation, and the Patrick-Murray Administration's budget continues the strong tradition of investing in our Commonwealth's natural resources. The Administration's Article 87 reorganization plan for the first time promotes energy policy to Cabinet-level prominence and ties it to environmental affairs, reflecting a keen awareness of how closely these issues are linked. Furthermore, the energy and environmental budget includes the following highlights:

Transportation: Maintaining Infrastructure & Improving Services

The Patrick-Murray Administration's transportation priorities focus on improving services, maintaining infrastructure and managing finances responsibly. Its capital budget will include over $450 million for statewide roadway and bridge projects, including safety improvements and repairs. Moreover, the operating budget includes the following investments to support safe, reliable, convenient and efficient transportation systems and services:

Workforce Development: Creating Opportunities

The Patrick-Murray Administration recognizes that a well-trained workforce is a necessary foundation, not only for the welfare of our citizens, but also for the strength of our economy. The Administration's Article 87 reorganization plan has returned labor and workforce issues to the Cabinet. Moreover, inclusion of the Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development in the Governor's Development Cabinet underscores Governor Patrick's and Lieutenant Governor Murray's commitment to promoting a coordinated approach to growth. The budget includes the following workforce development highlights:

Strong State Government

The Patrick-Murray Administration's budget makes investments to ensure that the important functions of state government are provided in a manner that is cost-effective, customer-friendly, responsive and accountable. The budget provides support for non-executive branches of government and other Constitutional officers. It also promotes responsible management of our state's revenues and savings, debts and liabilities.

Judiciary

Constitutional Officers

State Financial Management Practices

Civic Engagement

Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray firmly believe in civic engagement and public participation in government. They have already taken important first steps to cultivate civic engagement through the creation of a dedicated new government office, the Governor's Public Liaison. Through community meetings and technological advances, the Administration is conducting public outreach more broadly than any Administration in recent history. As an employer, we practice what we preach by broadening opportunities for state employees to volunteer in their communities. The budget includes: