Center: FY18 budget gap $615.7m

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center estimates the state’s funding gap for the coming fiscal year will be $615.7 million and recommends two policy changes to introduce greater transparency into the budget-writing process.

The gap, as the left-leaning center explains in a new policy brief, is essentially the difference between forecasted revenues and expenses but with a slight twist. The twist is the amount of one-time revenue sources the state is using to balance the current year’s budget.

The situation is a bit like a family whose expenses exceed its income. Rather than cutting costs or working a second job to bring in more revenue, the family taps one-time, or temporary, revenue sources, such as a loan from Uncle Phil. The state doesn’t have an Uncle Phil, so instead it uses the proceeds from a courthouse sale ($30 million) or re-deploys capital gains tax revenue that by law is supposed to go into the Rainy Day Fund ($150 million).

The center estimates the state will use a total of $679.2 million in one-time revenue sources to balance the fiscal 2017 budget, which means the state will start fiscal 2018 in July with a $679.2 million hole in its budget.

The center estimates tax revenues will grow by $898.9 million in fiscal 2018 while costs will rise $835.4 million, leaving $63.5 million that can be used to help fill the hole created by the use of one-time budget balancing measures in fiscal 2017. Bottom line: the state is looking at a $615.7 million budget gap that has to be filled through spending cuts, tax/revenue hikes, or continued use of one-time revenue sources.

The center recommends two ways the budget process could be improved. First, it recommends budget writers create a maintenance budget, an estimate of what it would cost to maintain the current level of services in the coming fiscal year. That way it would be easier to spot underfunded budget accounts, the center says. Nineteen states create maintenance budgets each year.

Second, the center calls for the creation of what it calls a baseline tax revenue growth estimate. State officials currently forecast how much revenues are likely to grow or fall in the coming year, but the center says these forecasts don’t take into account offsetting factors. For example, the projection for tax revenue growth in the current fiscal year is 4.3 percent, but the center says the baseline growth needed to reach that goal is actually 5.55 percent  “because some of the revenue growth would be used to pay for already enacted tax cuts and thus wouldn’t be available to fund the budget.”

–BRUCE MOHL


 

BEACON HILL

Steve Kadish, chief of staff to Gov. Charlie Baker and behind the scenes lead troubleshooter for every major crisis to hit the state, operates quietly but relentlessly to make good on Baker’s vow to get the basics of state government right. (CommonWealth)

Newly inaugurated Rep. Bud Williams of Springfield says he is going to retain his seat on the Springfield City Council. (Masslive)

House Speaker Robert DeLeo says he is open to doing away with some, but not all, mandatory minimum sentences. (MassLive)

A Herald editorial says talk of releasing those incarcerated for marijuana convictions that would not be a crime under the new legalization statute would be incredibly complicated and is “just another withdrawal from Beacon Hill’s bank of nutty ideas.” Baker and DeLeo seem to agree. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Framingham Charter Commission rejected amendments for term limits and voted to send the final draft of a proposed charter to voters that would make the region’s largest town a city. (MetroWest Daily News)

Fall River officials handed down discipline and revamped internal controls after a Buildings and Grounds Department clerk complained the department’s director was instructing employees to charge overtime to a fund for school projects. (Herald News)

Questions are being raised about the appointment by Gov. Charlie Baker to a seat on the watchdog Boston Finance Commission of a former city manager who was the supervisor of one of two former Walsh administration officials now under federal indictment. (Boston Herald)

The Legislature failed to act on a home rule petition by Framingham officials that would bar warrants at Town Meeting that disparage or target municipal employees. (MetroWest Daily News)

A city of Lawrence lawsuit against a contractor and insurer who built the Guilmette School (closed in 2010-2011 because of a mold infestation) may hinge on whether the city should have known the initial construction was faulty. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

In the face of a bullying blowhard who is about to take office as president, Joan Vennochi says Elizabeth Warren’s strident denunciations of Donald Trump are not out of line but are exactly what’s needed. (Boston Globe)

Confirmation hearings for Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general will set the tone for the rest of the hearings on President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet nominees.(U.S. News & World Report)

As expected, Trump named his son-in-law Jared Kushner as a senior White House advisor, though many observers say Kushner’s plans for divestment and his decision not to take a salary don’t go far enough in assuaging concerns over conflicts of interest. (New York Times)

Bristol Sheriff Thomas Hodgson defends his proposal to send inmates to build a wall along the Mexican border while Eva Millona, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, says it’s inhumane and likely unconstitutional. (Greater Boston)

The Globe profiles Mary Truong, director of the state’s Office for Refugees and Immigrants.

The Trump/GOP plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else later on appears to be in trouble. Several Republican senators want to do replacement at the same time as repeal. (New York)

ELECTIONS

Is New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ramping up for a run for the White House in 2020? Sure looks and sounds like it. (New York Times)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A state program designed to help homeowners deal with contractors gives a false sense of protection. (CommonWealth)

A nonprofit called Root is preparing to open a teaching restaurant for at-risk youths in Salem. (Salem News)

New Balance jumps into the athletic smartwatch fray. (Boston Globe)

L.L. Bean is scrambling to fend off a possible consumer boycott because one of the heirs to the family business has bankrolled a Trump-supporting PAC. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Sydney Chafee, a ninth-grade teacher at Codman Academy Charter Public School, is named one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. (MassLive)

The city of Lowell and its largest employer, UMass Lowell, always seem to be bumping heads. (Lowell Sun)

Quincy school officials determined there was no threat after investigating a video by a middle school student referencing the 1999 Columbine shooting. (Patriot Ledger)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

A new study suggests an alternate payment system being used by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts that rewards providers for meeting various health benchmarks, not based on the amount of care or number of procedures they conduct, might narrow some health disparities between wealthier and poorer patients. (Boston Globe)

Worcester District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. says there were at least 148 overdose deaths in Worcester County last year, three-quarters of them linked to the powerful drug fentanyl. (Telegram & Gazette)

UMass Memorial Medical Center is joining the Dana Farber Cancer Care Collaborative. (Telegram & Gazette)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA is preparing to privatize its warehouse operations, outsourcing the work to a Virginia company named Mancon that is expected to improve service and save the T money. Mancon pays its workers $18 to $20 an hour, well below the $30 to $35 hourly rate paid to T workers. (CommonWealth)

The general manager’s job at the T has been vacant for more than six months, but there seems to be no rush to find someone to fill it. (CommonWealth)

The Baker administration is moving slowly on a study examining a rail link between North and South stations. (State House News)

Seven people were injured and a massive traffic jam ensued after a tractor trailer and 12 cars were involved in an accident at I-495 south at I-93 in Andover. (Eagle-Tribune)

Uber plans to use the traffic data it gathers to help city planners. (Governing)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Speaking at MIT, Secretary of State John Kerry urges aggressive action on climate change. (WBUR)

About 300 trees in Worcester are being targeted for removal because of their proximity to trees found to be infested with the Asian longhorned beetle. (Telegram & Gazette)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A federal jury has once again sentenced Gary Lee Sampson to death in the retrial of the penalty phase for the convicted spree killer. (Patriot Ledger)

Attorney General Maura Healey again cracks down on gun sales, this time a Worcester dealer’s sale of illegal handguns. (CommonWealth)

A Globe editorial applauds changes in the Boston Police Department’s homicide unit that are being credited with an uptick in its “clearance rate” for solving murders.

The trial begins for Barry Cadden, former owner and CEO of New England Compounding Center, who faces 97 federal charges, including murder, that could deliver a life sentence for his alleged role masterminding a company that distributed tained drugs. (Boston Herald)

The state prison in Shirley is in lockdown after an inmate fight yesterday afternoon spiraled into a wider melee. (Boston Herald)

So maybe Lizzie Borden did get away with murder. (Herald News)

MEDIA

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet discusses the future of the paper and the news business. (New York Times)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Massachusetts has an interesting approach to home rule. When a city or town decides to change some aspect of local governance the proposed change has to go before the state legislature for approval. Each year’s session laws are littered with dozens of such municipal changes. For example, Plainville wanted to establish a Department of Public Works and went through the local approval process then the state legislature had to pass a law making it official. If the legislature wouldn’t give its blessing then there’s no DPW for Plainville. Fortunately for Plainville, both houses approved and the Governor signed the law giving Plainville the right to establish a DPW. That was the 3rd law enacted in 2016. The second law for 2016 concerned the composition of the Nantucket Historic District Commission and apparently that’s a big problem down in Nantucket because in 2014, the 338th law passed concerned Nantucket’s Historic Commission. Not sure why Nantucket’s Historic Commission is consuming so much legislative time. Anyhow, that brings us to the Daily Download’s “The Legislature failed to act on a home rule petition by Framingham officials that would bar warrants at Town Meeting that disparage or target municipal employees.” Why should the state legislature have the right to fail to authorize or outright deny a local governance decision? Why can’t such charter changes simply be forwarded to the Secretary of State for review and approval?