Budget Narrative

Choices for a Better Tomorrow

Governor Patrick’s and Lieutenant Governor Murray’s fiscal year 2012 budget proposal keeps Massachusetts moving toward a strong economic recovery and a better tomorrow.  It reflects their core belief that, facing unprecedented fiscal challenges in fiscal year 2012, we need to be smarter about the way state government does business and delivers services.  The Patrick-Murray Administration will use this budget to move forward on key priorities including: closing the achievement gap in our schools, controlling health care costs, growing jobs throughout the Commonwealth and addressing youth and urban violence.

This budget is also a vehicle to implement an aggressive reform agenda to continue to improve the way state government serves the residents of Massachusetts.  The Administration will be filing legislation with the budget to further reform our pension system, to give cities and towns more tools to cut their health care costs, to shift our homeless shelter system into a housing-first system, and to reshape our criminal justice system to regain the public’s confidence.  The fiscal year 2012 budget also includes many difficult cuts and tough choices.  But in the long run, these choices will help us be responsible to future generations.

Closing the Achievement Gap: The fiscal year 2012 budget proposal supports Governor Patrick’s commitment to close the achievement gap in schools by maintaining funding for Chapter 70’s foundation budget, increasing funding for targeted state investments that address the achievement gap, and effectively managing new federal funds awarded to Massachusetts for this purpose, such as Race to the Top monies.

Maintaining a strong investment in education is a crucial component to guaranteeing that the Commonwealth’s students continue to be national and global leaders in educational achievement.  The Patrick-Murray Administration will continue to implement its aggressive agenda for education, even in spite of a struggling global economy and limited resources.  It is essential to maintain this commitment to our children’s education.  Some highlights include:

The fiscal year 2012 budget invests more than $817 million in our public colleges and universities, providing campuses the same level of state supported, non-federal funding as in fiscal year 2011. This funding level reflects the $20 million out-of-state tuition that will now be retained at campuses.  The House 1 budget maintains funding for scholarships provided through the Office of Student Financial Assistance at the Department of Higher Education at $88.3 million to support needs-based financial assistance for our in-state students.  In fiscal year 2012 the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) will also contribute $1 million to support scholarships in partnership with the Department of Higher Education.

The Department of Higher Education has proposed establishing a $7.5 million incentive fund to encourage financial and operational efficiency at University of Massachusetts, the state universities, and the community colleges.  This fund will provide incentives to campuses to encourage these independent agencies to advance the Administration’s policy objectives and adopt fiscal improvement and accountability measures that will lower costs and increase efficiency.  These incentives will help encourage campuses to adopt better practices that are aligned with the Administration’s goals and priorities.

The Administration is committed to providing access to high-quality early education and child care to its residents.  The fiscal year 2012 budget provides the tools for the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) to improve child care quality along with increasing access and affordability. This budget reflects our commitment to early education and care by continuing to invest in the Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) and Head Start grant programs.  It continues to support child care access to quality after school and day care programs for children within the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Transitional Assistance, and qualified low income eligible families. Funding from EEC will help support child care services for over 55,000 children.

Controlling Health Care Costs: Building on our tremendous success in implementing health care reform – with more than 98 percent of our residents now getting health insurance, the highest level in the Nation – we must now work to get health care costs under control so that health coverage is as affordable as it is accessible.

We are proposing an aggressive cost containment strategy to help manage costs in all state and health care programs (Massachusetts Connector Authority, MassHealth, Group Insurance Commission and the Medical Security Program). The Administration’s goal is to leverage the state’s immense purchasing power to be a force for rewarding models that provide cost-effective, high-quality coverage and care to those who rely on state health insurance and better coordinate government’s health care purchasing decisions. It would maintain eligibility for all state-subsidized health insurance programs – under the most generous eligibility standards in the nation (see below) – without capping enrollment.

In legislation filed with this budget, we are proposing new tools for cities and towns to help manage health care costs, which is the most significant budget buster for municipalities. We are proposing a new local health insurance plan design process that will achieve material savings for cities and towns.  This could save municipalities more than $94 million in year one.  We are also proposing to require that all municipalities enroll their eligible retirees in Medicare, as this federal program covers a substantial portion of that population's health care costs.

Small businesses will also benefit from updates launched by the Connector Authority to its Commonwealth Choice program, which creates a streamlined, simplified process for small businesses and individuals to shop for unsubsidized, name-brand health insurance, saving them money by making it easier for them to understand their options and choose better-priced health plans. The Connector will also be eliminating a fee it currently charges small businesses to shop through Commonwealth Choice, and $10 million is proposed to offer premium discounts for certain small businesses which purchase coverage through Commonwealth Choice and set up wellness programs for their employees. This will reduce premiums for qualifying small businesses by up to 5%.

Job Creation: The fiscal year 2012 budget supports Governor Patrick’s commitment to help every resident in Massachusetts seeking work to find it.  We are investing in education, in the innovation industries that are expanding opportunity around the Commonwealth, in the small businesses that are the backbone of our economy, and in the public infrastructure that supports it all.  Initiatives in this budget will also help reduce the costs of doing business here by addressing escalating health insurance premiums and improving access to capital for small businesses.

The budget will reform the funding structure for the Workforce Training Fund (WTF) by funding grants to private employers (typically at $21 million a year) through a dedicated trust fund.  This change responds to private employers’ concerns that annual WTF contributions have been diverted in the past from job training initiatives for use in the General Fund.  The WTF will provide funding to a broader range of employers in size, business and location.  We will also increase participation of small businesses by allowing them to partner with community colleges, vocational education schools and community-based organizations to apply for grants.  The Commonwealth Corporation will administer these grants moving forward to help meet these goals and improve transparency.

The fiscal year 2012 capital projects budget will invest more than $3.6 billion in capital investment projects, more than double the amount of state capital investments when Governor Patrick took office four years ago.  While many of these planned investments create construction jobs and otherwise support economic growth, $194 million of planned investments are specifically targeted to economic development programs, which prioritize projects that invest in state infrastructure that leverages private development and supports job growth.  More than $50 million will be invested in the MassWorks Infrastructure Program – the newly created one-stop shop for municipalities seeking public infrastructure funding that supports economic development and job creation.

The budget reflects the first full year of operation for the newly-created Mass Marketing Partnership, established in the Economic Development Reorganization Bill adopted in 2010. The long-term goal of the new agency is to execute a more consolidated and coordinated marketing effort within the Commonwealth for both attracting and retaining tourists and businesses to the state.  The new Growth Capital Corporation, resulting from a merger of the Economic Stabilization Trust and the Community Development Finance Corporation, will also have funding to make loans to small businesses.

In addition to the capital program, some of our quasi-public agency partners help support job creation, such as the Life Sciences Center, the Clean Energy Center, MassDevelopment, and Mass Tech Collaborative. These entities are continuing to advance the Patrick-Murray Administration objectives to create high-technology jobs that will be needed in the future, particularly in the life sciences and clean energy sectors.

The fiscal year 2012 budget maintains our commitment to phase down the corporate tax rate, from 8.75 percent in tax year 2010 to 8.25 percent in 2011.  The Department of Revenue estimates this will save 35,000 businesses statewide roughly $185.1 million. Even in the midst of unprecedented fiscal challenges, we are following through with corporate tax reform and reducing costs for businesses so that they can invest more in themselves and create new jobs for Massachusetts residents who need them.

Addressing Youth and Urban Violence: The fiscal year 2012 budget supports Governor Patrick’s commitment to put an end to youth and urban violence.  The Patrick-Murray Administration is working to finalize a comprehensive approach to help achieve this goal by partnering with communities throughout the Commonwealth.  Many choices in this budget will preserve and in some cases increase the myriad of programs across many state agencies that contribute to meeting the needs of youth-at-risk populations and youth and urban violence prevention initiatives.

Between this budget and the fiscal year 2011 supplemental budget we are filing at the same time, we are increasing funding for Shannon Grants by $3.5 million. These anti-gang violence grants are distributed to communities based on a formula that takes into consideration crime rates and youth demographics. The fiscal year 2011 funding will be made available for 18 months to allow the Shannon Grant program to be funded at $8 million for fiscal year 2012.

Between this budget and the fiscal year 2011 supplemental budget, we are increasing funding by $4.3 million for the Commonwealth’s summer jobs program, which helps communities place at-risk youth into educational and skills-building opportunities through grants.  This will bring total funding for the summer of 2011 to $8 million.

Reforms for Future Generations

Governor Patrick and Lieutenant Governor Murray are proposing fiscal year 2012 investments to help close the achievement gap, control health care costs, grow jobs, address youth and urban violence and other key areas as part of a balanced and fiscally responsible budget.  We have eliminated the structural deficit we inherited and that the recession prolonged. We have made tough decisions to file a balanced budget, including difficult cuts and an aggressive reform agenda.

Through this budget, we are changing the way government does business to reduce costs, improve performance and make government more accountable.  It is no longer enough to say that the fiscal crisis presents an opportunity for change – we are now at the point where it demands change.  Many of the reform proposals are necessary to achieve savings required to live within reduced budgets, while other proposals are necessary to preserve critical programs and services; to preserve employee benefits by making them sustainable; to make government more efficient and effective; and to make government more transparent and accountable.

Fiscal Responsibility and Reforms

The Record

State governments across the country are experiencing a fiscal crisis.  The depth of the global recession and the resulting impact on state tax revenues, the loss of federal stimulus funds and the continued demand on safety net programs, particularly Medicaid programs, have left states facing unprecedented fiscal challenges for fiscal year 2012.  Even with the economy recovering and state tax revenues growing, the budget gaps are larger than ever and are demanding that many states take drastic steps to balance their budgets.

The Commonwealth’s fiscal position is strong when compared to other states, but it is also faced with unprecedented fiscal challenges in fiscal year 2012 and we must continue to make tough choices regarding the budget.

This year, we have eliminated the structural deficit we inherited and that the recession prolonged.  At the depth of the recession in fiscal year 2009, the state budget was supported by $3.2 billion in one-time revenues.  Our fiscal year 2012 budget proposal relies on only $385 million in non-recurring revenue sources – both a $1.47 billion decrease from fiscal year 2011 and an amount that is justified and sustainable based on cyclical tax revenue trends.  We have ensured $570 million will remain in the state’s stabilization fund which, at the end of fiscal year 2012, is a relatively healthy balance compared to other states.  Further, we have also continued to reduce full-time employee positions, having eliminated roughly 5,800 positions since October 2008. An additional 900 positions will likely need to be eliminated further in fiscal year 2012.

The Patrick-Murray Administration has a proven track record of fiscal responsibility.  In November 2010, each rating agency affirmed the Commonwealth's strong and stable bond ratings while expressly recognizing the Administration’s prudent, effective and conservative financial management.

In December 2010, the Commonwealth sold the inaugural bond issues to partially fund the Accelerated Bridge Program.  The $575 million in bonds secured by the new Commonwealth Transportation Fund were awarded the highest possible credit ratings - Aaa/AAA - by Moody's and Standard & Poors, which cited several of the Governor’s transportation reform efforts as leading credit strengths.  These triple-A ratings, the first ever awarded to the Commonwealth, are expected to save the Commonwealth an estimated $60 million over the life of the Accelerated Bridge Program, or $37 million on a present value basis.

These strong endorsements of our state’s finances from bond rating agencies speak to Governor Patrick’s record of pursuing a balanced approach to budgeting and spending restraint.  The Governor has not hesitated to make difficult cuts, while preserving critical state programs and services.  Emphasizing the importance of shared sacrifice during extraordinarily challenging times, he has secured unprecedented contract revisions from our state employee unions, reduced the size of the state workforce and asked state employees to contribute more to their health insurance.

The Massachusetts economy has shown strong signs of recovery since one year ago (January 2010).  In November 2010, the state’s unemployment rate rose slightly to 8.2 percent from 8.1 percent in October.  November’s steady unemployment rate followed two months with sharply declining unemployment in Massachusetts.  The unemployment rate in Massachusetts is currently 1.2 percent below the national unemployment rate of 9.4 percent.  In Massachusetts, the labor force grew in November, with the number of employed persons growing faster than the number of unemployed.  However, 285,600 people remain unemployed, and one of the Governor’s top priorities in his second term is job creation. 

Over the year, Massachusetts gained 38,300 jobs, which roughly equals the strongest job growth performance for the state since 2000.  This year, the Commonwealth has seen strong performance in manufacturing, education, professional, scientific and business services, financial services and trade, transportation and utilities.  Massachusetts has increased overall employment since December 2006 in the sectors of healthcare and education and professional, scientific and technical services – sectors that have been key areas of focus by the Patrick-Murray Administration.

Massachusetts is recovering stronger and faster than the national average.  The University of Massachusetts/Federal Reserve Bank of Boston economic forecast prepared by noted economist Alan Clayton-Matthews states: “Massachusetts real gross domestic product is estimated to have grown at annual rates of 6.1 percent in the first quarter of 2010, 3.4 percent in the second quarter, and 3.9 percent in the third quarter.  The corresponding growth rates for U.S. real GDP were 3.7 percent, 1.7 percent, and 2.5 percent respectively.”

National rankings and comparisons underscore the current competitiveness of the Massachusetts economy and of the Commonwealth as a place to do business.  Massachusetts ranks second in economic performance since January 2010 and ranks fifth in economic performance since January 2007, according to an economic index published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.  Massachusetts was declared one of CNBC’s top five states for business in 2010, joining Texas, Virginia, Colorado and North Carolina on the list.

Fiscal Year 2012

For fiscal year 2012, Governor Patrick continues to take the same balanced, fiscally responsible approach to meeting the demands of state government in an economically challenging time.  Fiscal year 2012 budget solutions include spending discipline, reforms, and a modest use of one-time resources.

Spending Discipline:  The fiscal year 2012 budget includes many difficult cuts and tough choices, some of which will result in the elimination of state programs.  However, we have managed to preserve critical state programs and services.  In the long run, these choices will help us be responsible to future generations.

Reforms:  The Patrick-Murray Administration will use the fiscal year 2012 budget as a vehicle to move forward an aggressive reform agenda.

Budget Reforms: The Commonwealth has received a Government Finance Officers’ Association Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for the past three fiscal years for making state policy decisions transparent and accessible to the public through its budget materials.  The Governor’s fiscal year 2012 budget contains additional budget reforms to promote sound fiscal management and transparency.

Fiscal Year 2012 Program and Policy Highlights


Local Aid

Public Safety and Security

Economic Development and Housing

Health and Human Services

Energy and Environment

Labor and Workforce Development

Administration and Finance



The Committee for Public Counsel Services:



Constitutional Officers

Independent Agencies