REFORMING MASSACHUSETTS WHAT THE GOVERNOR CAN DO — AND CAN’T

1 Baker budget 2016

^ Governor Baker : working hard not to disappoint — which is the first step in any smart reform

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Already the laundry lists are being presented to Goveror Baker : und this — no, fund that; allow this — no, prevent that. The MBTA, the 2024 Olympics, DCF, local aid, funds for early education, tackling opioid addiction….

There’s impatience in the air now, words of frustration. Reasons are being advanced why this initiative shouldn’t happen or why that one should happen NOW if not sooner.To all of these the Governor has so far responded as he should : first we must solve the budget imbalance.

Not everybody accepts that. Advocates seek new funding for the MBTA, even before the Governor’s MBTA panel comes back with its reform recommendations. Homelessness, child care, Gateway Cities initiatives all await immediate action by “Mr. Fix It.” (NOTE: on the Gateway Cities front, Baker scored a huge victory this week by way of Amazon committing to building a huge facility in Fall River, one that will create at least 500 full time jobs in a region that sorely needs them.)

To all the advocates now pressinng their cases for more money i have one word ; patience. We can’t set the State’s budget right in just a few months. Baker was left with a $ 768 million budget deficit for last year and faces a $ 1.8 billion minus this year as well. (NOTE : the legislature has moved swiftly to make these deficits good. I congratulate the members.) As Massachusetts doesn’t mint its own money, it can’t operate in the red; and funds allocated that later have to be drawn back — as happened as a matter of course in the prior Governor’s time — is no way to run a responsible state administration either. Baker has moved resolutely to place the upcoming budget year’s revenue in reality mode — gto estimate the state’s intake conservatively, so that if there are any surprises, they’ll be good news, not bad. This is exactly the right decision.

Baker’s skeptical udget plannning means that many needy initiatives will have to wait. But their wait will be rewarded. Even in the 2016 fiscal budget, Baker has increased allocations to the MBTA, to chapter 70 state education aid, and to the local aid fund. These are only the beginning. Once Baker’s team has a handle on this year’s revenues it can begin to make increase of funds decisions that won’t have to be taken back. These will almost certaily be featured in NEXT year’s state budget.

It may seem harsh to ask child care advocates, MBTA reformers, workplace and education initiatives, and supporters of the 2024 Olympics wait for state action, but better the pain of patience than the pleasantries of hurry that lead to cancellations or excuses. We want the Baker reforms to take hold and stick, not to veer off. Meanwhile, the recommendations will come, in formal messages, and discussions will continue, as advocates tweak their requests to the state’s economy delivering its reveue facts. Let the process go forward, step by step. We’ll all be better off for it.

One Baker initiative seems ready to hit the streets right away : cancelling the State’s Film Tax Credit and replacing it with an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income working families. It’s a instant “up” for many hard working Massachusetts people who need an “up” or two in their difficult economic lives.

—- Mike Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

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