Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Representative Kane: Governor Baker Made Right Decision in Issuing His 9C Cuts

The following column by Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) appeared in the January 1 edition of the Boston Globe's West Section:

The governor is empowered to use his authority to reduce spending if the Secretary of Administration and Finance determines that budgeted revenues will not be sufficient to meet budgeted expenditures. Disappointing tax revenues and growing exposure for underfunded accounts such as public defense services for indigent defendants and family homelessness services have prompted Governor Charles Baker to use spending cuts to bring this year’s state budget back into balance.

The reductions are one quarter of one percent of the $39.25 billion state budget. While the scope does not lessen the impacts of these cuts, which affect several of my own priorities, we must be candid in the overall fiscal environment of the Commonwealth.

The Baker-Polito Administration took office in January 2015 inheriting serious fiscal challenges: a $765 million mid-year fiscal 2015 budget deficit and a nearly $1.8 billion shortfall looming for fiscal 2016. The fiscal 2015 budget gap remained despite governor Deval Patrick having already implemented over $198.1 million in cuts himself in the fall of 2014.

The culprit of this persistent gap is expenses that far outpaced yearly tax revenue growth. The fiscal 2015 budget that Governor Patrick signed into law was up 5.6 percent from the preceding year. Compounding the aggressive expense growth was an unhealthy reliance on the state’s stabilization — or “rainy day” — fund and one-time revenue sources to balance the budget for eight years.

The Baker-Polito Administration, working with the House and Senate, has brought fiscal restraint to Beacon Hill. Together, we are seeking to rebuild the Commonwealth’s long-term fiscal health by controlling expenses, rebuilding the rainy day fund reserves, and paying down debt, while achieving balanced budgets that provide increases in local aid and education funding and address such priorities as defeating the opioid epidemic and bringing reforms to the Department of Children and Families — all without tax increases. While debate on the necessity and merits of timing will always accompany the painful decision to authorize cuts, the administration strongly believes that the fiscal indicators necessary to trigger their use are clear.