The Senate budget released today recommends record-high cuts to state aid to cities and towns and for the first time this year proposes carving into education funding.
The Senate budget released today recommends record-high cuts to aid for cities and towns and for the first time this year proposes carving into education funding.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee has proposed a 30 percent reduction in state aid – a figure that’s $484 million below last year’s level, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
“Class sizes will go up, roads will go unpaved, and public safety will be cut so deeply that response times will lag,” said Geoff Beckwith, the association’s executive director. “This is bad economic policy to cut this deeply.”
The budget also includes a 2 percent reduction in education funding to local school districts. Previous budgets put forward by Gov. Deval Patrick and the House preserved this account at 2009 levels.
“The decisions (the House) had to make were difficult,” said Ways and Means chair Sen. Steven Panagiotakas, D-Lowell. “The decisions we had to make were draconian.”
State officials have repeatedly lowered revenue estimates for the fiscal year starting July 1, starting out in January expecting just over $19 billion and basing today’s Senate budget on $17.9 billion.
The state has relied heavily on federal stimulus money and withdrawals from its “rainy day” reserves fund, which will have dropped from $2.13 billion to under $800 million at the end of the year.
With tax collections plummeting – they dropped 18 percent in the last three months, according to the state treasurer’s office – the state is debating several proposed tax increases, including a 25-percent hike to the 5-percent sales tax, a measure that has passed the House.
But Republicans have signaled their opposition to turning to taxpayers with any new taxes.
“I think we’d be hard-pressed to support a sales tax,” said Ways and Means member Sen. Michael Knapik, R-Westfield, after the budget meeting.
The Senate begins debate on the budget next Tuesday.