To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives,
The Baker-Polito Administration is pleased to submit our budget recommendations for Fiscal Year 2016. This year’s proposal is crafted around a vision of creating better communities, better schools, and better jobs for all of Massachusetts. We accomplish this vision by focusing upon several principle areas of investment: economic competitiveness and jobs, a commitment to cities and towns, education, an urban agenda including Gateway Cities, health and human services, transportation, and efficiency.
For two consecutive years, our spending growth has outpaced our revenue growth. After over $1 billion in budgetary reductions last year, state spending still grew at 7.8% more than the year before, while tax revenue only grew at 4%. This is simply an unsustainable path for Massachusetts - we must live within our means.
This proposal keeps spending growth around 3%, and allows us to begin to address long-term structural changes and reduce our reliance on one-time revenue. We protect our rainy day fund, because in a largely healthy economy it is clear our issues are based on a need to prioritize spending and make state government more efficient. We also avoid layoffs through an early retirement package that will reduce the size and cost of the state workforce.
Our plan curbs state spending at MassHealth, a traditional budget-buster, to 5.6% growth, down from a projected 16% hike. By achieving this, we are able to increase funding for other key priorities, including local aid, education, transportation, and other human service related programs such as the Department of Children and Families and rate increases for human service providers who offer direct services to those who need it most.
Every school district in the Commonwealth will see an increase in education funding. Unrestricted local aid will increase at 75% of projected revenue growth and we fund the recently created Commonwealth Community Compact to better partner with cities and towns on developing best practices. We will also begin phasing in the doubling of the Earned Income Tax Credit to help low and moderate income workers.
We follow the same common-sense approach that we implemented during our first few days in office when we instituted a hiring freeze that saved over $22 million and helped stop a big spending problem from becoming even bigger. We then focused our savings efforts largely on programs that had not started almost seven months into the fiscal year. Massachusetts should expect a similarly practical approach to Fiscal Year 2016.
In our inaugural addresses, we pledged to work with you to solve what has become a serious spending problem. We thank you for your swift action concerning the Fiscal Year 2015 budget gap and look forward to collaborating again on our proposals in the coming months to return state government to a level of fiscal health that will enable the creation of innovative programs in the years to come.
Operating within our means will require difficult but responsible decisions. We are proud this proposal upholds the state’s chief responsibilities to both our citizens and municipalities across the entire Commonwealth.
|Charles D. Baker||Karyn E. Polito|