MTA tells House to raise revenues to protect vital services

April 29, 2003


To:    Members of the House of Representatives

From:    MTA Division of Governmental Services

Subject:   FY04 BUDGET (H4000): THE NEED FOR REVENUES

WHAT IS AT STAKE

The state is facing a grave financial crisis that given current revenue projections will not permit funding services at the current level.  The Commonwealth can either cut vital and essential services or raise revenues to protect these programs. Members of the House must make the difficult decision in the next two weeks--whether or not to support a proposed budget that makes drastic cuts that will impact students--pre-kindergarten through graduate school.

As the House begins the process of grappling with these decisions, it is important to remember that public education has made much progress in the past decade.  This progress is the result in large part of the resources the state wisely invested in K-12 public education since the Education Reform Act was passed in 1993.  Yet much of this progress will be lost if the House passes the Ways and Means budget as currently proposed.  Even with increased state funding, it was not until 1997 that state funding for education when adjusted for inflation reached what it had been prior to the economic downturn of the late 1980s. 

Already as a result of last year's cuts and the cuts made earlier this year, school districts are dismantling programs, many designed to give children a good start in school, as well as laying off teachers and other staff.  If the current budget is passed, class sizes will increase and students will not receive the attention they need to succeed, new schools will not be built and needed repairs not made.

According to several measures, Massachusetts ranks just 49th among the 50 states in state support for public higher education.  Yet the current budget proposal calls for cutting another $174 million -- a 20% cut for FY04.  This is in addition to the 24% cut in campus budgets since FY01.  Students must have quality public higher education, if they are to succeed Massachusetts' knowledge-based economy.

This week the House will vote on several amendments to the budget that increase revenues.  MTA urges the House to support amendments that increase the income tax rate, the state sales taX and taxes on alcohol.  By passing these proposals, there will be sufficient funds to continue the investments that have been made in public education so that our students will not face another decade of playing catch up.  

In addition, the House will consider an amendment to borrow so that funds can go into Chapter 70, local aid, public higher education, school transportation and the school building assistance program.  While not a permanent solution to the structural deficit like the tax proposals mentioned above, borrowing allows modest immediate relief to the deep cuts proposed in the House Ways and Means budget. MTA urges the House to adopt this short-term funding plan.