Baker taps MassDevelopment for $17.5m

Money will be used to close FY17 budget shortfall

IT’S UNCLEAR whether it qualifies as a nip or a tuck, but the Baker administration is tapping an independent authority for $17.5 million to help balance this year’s budget.

A spokesman for the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, the state’s economic development and financing authority, said the organization’s board voted  earlier this month to transfer the money out of its general fund. The spokesman said the state is under no requirement to replace the money.

The governor has been tight-lipped about how he plans to close an estimated $500 million budget gap in fiscal 2017, which ends at the end of this month. He has said his administration will be doing some nipping and tucking, but few details have emerged.

Baker administration officials declined to comment on the record, but confirmed the transfer of the funds from MassDevelopment.

Ever since former governor Deval Patrick tightened gubernatorial control over the state’s quasi-public authorities, the agencies have often been called on to help out financially when the state runs short of money, which has been happening with more and more frequency the last few years.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Baker last year grabbed $60 million out of the Convention Center Fund. He also reduced the state appropriation to the MBTA by $31 million, but then reimbursed the transit authority after the fact with money borrowed by the state. Baker is expected to follow the same practice with the T this year.

As Baker works to close this fiscal year’s budget gap, the Legislature is trying to deal with a yawning gap between revenues and expenditures in fiscal 2018, which starts July 1.  Such temporary imbalances occur frequently in state government, but what has analysts nervous is that they are happening at a time when the state’s economy is growing. If the economy should falter, officials say the state’s budget situation could quickly spiral out of control.