MTA's position on amendments to House budget
MTA is disappointed that the House at this time has chosen to reject any increase in taxes. The deep cuts in public education, pre-K though graduate school, that will result from this decision will erode the quality of education provided to our Commonwealth's students.
In examining the more than 1,000 amendments, it is clear that attempts were made by many sponsors to put money into the education programs that were cut or eliminated. However, the House rules made it extremely difficult to draft amendments and as a result many amendments have raided the accounts of other essential programs that help students. The solution is not to take money from other programs but to increase revenues to provide adequate resources to meet the state's obligation to its citizens.
Despite the constraints on offering amendments due to limited revenues, there are amendments that MTA believes will help students and educators. There are also amendments that would further erode public education.
Public higher education has seen enormous funding cuts in the past three years -- a 24% cut in FY01-FY03 and now another 20% is being proposed. MTA urges the House adopt an amendment that increases funding for the campuses by distributing the $30 million from the new Higher Education Incentive to campus budgets. In addition, many higher education employees have gone almost three years without funding for their contracts and now are being asked to take what will amount to a pay decrease if their share of health insurance premiums is increased. Therefore, MTA strongly supports the restoration of the current split in health insurance premiums.
Our public schools have made progress in the past decade, in part as a result of the increase in state funding under Chapter 70. Current proposals risk undoing this progress. Chapter 70 was cut by almost 5% but many communities will face a 20% cut. The revenues are not available to restore the monies needed for funding Chapter 70. However, MTA supports amendments that allocate funds to the class size reduction program that was eliminated and additional funds to the early childhood program. In addition, MTA supports amendments that postpone the MCAS test and graduation requirement as well as a charter school moratorium so that funds do not continue to be drained from our public schools.
These amendments, while important improvements in the current proposal, do little to deal with the severe cuts in education funding. The only equitable solution is to increase state revenues now.