It was bad, but it could have been worse. Gov. Deval Patrick announced $352 million in cuts in response to a $600 million budget gap. Federal stimulus funds plugged the rest of the gap (see the Mass Budget and Policy Center's report).
The cuts hit the executive offices of state government, which include human services, public health and public education, and landed particularly hard on critical community programs for the homeless, domestic violence victims, gang involved youth, environmental protection, and public safety.
Local officials are waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop on local aid formulas and it may not drop until a second round of 9C cuts in December, or when the Governor files his budget in January and stimulus funds are exhausted.
Notably, there was no new revenue included in the governor’s response to the budget gap. When pressed in a Blue Mass Group blog about the need for new broad-based taxes, Patrick said the time is not right.
“I appreciate your support of new taxes, but the time is wrong. People are watching every penny right now and a broad-based tax, in my opinion, is not the right way to go right now.” by: Governor Deval Patrick @ Sun Oct 18, 2009 at 17:20:02 PM EDT
It’s clear that neither the governor, nor the Legislature will take the lead on a proposal for new taxes. It’s up to us to create a groundswell of support that lets elected leadership in Massachusetts know that proposing new taxes need not be political suicide.
We can make the time right if some of the statewide and local community activists and organizations who already recognize that the most effective solution to the problem of declining revenues is to work together to systematically build public support for our Governor, and our legislative leaders find and tap other sources of revenue. Many of us are looking at the Tax Expenditure Budget, which lists items exempted from taxes.
How about closing some outdated corporate loopholes — maybe $140 million or so — or imposing a sales tax on some professional services used by corporations or higher income people — maybe $1 billion or so — or even just restoring the income rate to 2001 levels (5.75) would raise $800 million and has been discussed many times on these pages.
(Cross-posted on ONE Massachusetts)