HOUSE BUDGET SLASHES PROGRAMS, PROTECTS LOOPHOLES
The proposed state budget for the next fiscal year (FY04) was released on April 23 by the House Ways and Means Committee. It calls for deep and severe cuts to key public interest programs including health care, education, and social services. It does not reflect any intention to close corporate tax loopholes or reform the tax system.
The Ways and Means budget follows months in which the Legislative leaders have met with constituents and criticized the program cuts proposed by Governor Romney. But the Ways and Means budget actually proposes deeper spending cuts than were contained in the Governor’s budget.
The budget assumes $700 million in fee hikes, tuition increases, and new taxes which are mostly regressive in nature. And most of the cuts do not represent actual savings for the taxpayers – they will instead result in hikes in more regressive fees and property taxes.
The budget will result in layoffs for 3000 to 5000 state employees. The loss of federal Medicaid reimbursements resulting from the Medicaid cutbacks will also result in Massachusetts jobs being lost in the health care field.
Public interest groups labeled the budget a “disaster”. Deborah Banda, state director of AARP commented that “It’s a dark day for seniors in the Commonwealth. The governor has abandoned them, and now the House has as well.” [Boston Globe, 4/24/03]
But Romney’s budget chief, Eric Kriss, praised the complete House plan “as a good first step” that “follows our lead” by avoiding new taxes, reorganizing state health agencies, and cutting local aid by “virtually the same” amount Romney proposed. [SHNS, 4/23/03]
===== MORE DETAILS ON THE FY04 BUDGET IMPACTS======
These budget details were gathered from various sources, including the Boston Globe, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MBPC), and public interest groups. This is not a complete list of the cuts – but it gives a feel for some of the major impacts.
– The budget cuts $225.8 million from aid to local schools (This figure is the shortfall from what would be required for maintenance of services under Chapter 70 aid.)
– $44.7 million is cut from other education programs. This includes $18 million cut from programs to reduce classroom size, $10 million from early education, and $40 million from programs helping students pass MCAS.
– $67.2 million is cut from programs for school transportation. Increased local fees are expected for parents putting their children on school busses.
– Higher education is slashed by $165 million. This follows cuts of $75 million adopted in the previous two years.
– The Prescription Advantage program that provides prescription drug coverage to 80,000 senior citizens and disabled people is eliminated. It would cost $97 million to continue this program.
– $600 million is cut from health insurance through Medicaid (in comparison to what is required to maintain services). This will result in loss of coverage and elimination of services for people who remain covered.
– The states anti-tobacco program, which had been recognized as a national model, is eliminated.
– Cuts are made to transportation programs, adult day and work programs, and family support services.
– The Office of Child Care Services is cut by $19.6 million
– Funding for low-income child care subsidy and voucher programs is cut by $5.6 million, which is expected to lead to the loss of as many as 1,000 child care slots.
– Funding for the Clean Elections Law is eliminated.
– Power to dispense small amounts of additional funds for the courts, education, and local aid is given to politically-connected operatives. This is expected to help silence criticisms, since complaints by constituency groups could result in their losing the competition for these small pots of money.