As state budget gap widens, choices grow more difficult

As the economic crisis has worsened, I want to communicate with the residents of the 15th Suffolk/Norfolk District in respect to the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget. This week, the House of Representatives is releasing its version of the budget. The state is working with reduced income and increasing expenses as revenue streams continue to be impacted by the global financial crisis. Those who rely on safety net services are impacted even further. We in the Legislature are working hard to do more with less.

The Legislature has already authorized Gov. Deval Patrick to make two rounds of cuts to the FY2009 Budget to accommodate the decreased revenue collection for this fiscal year. Since then, the revenue projections for the upcoming FY2010 have fallen as the severity of the global financial crisis has reverberated through-out all private and public institutions. The estimates for FY2010 tax revenues range from $18.6 billion to $20.3 billion, as tax collections are down 6.8 percent over last year, which speaks to the uncertainty sur-rounding the scope of the commonwealth’s revenue problem. According to the Massachusetts Taxpayer’s Founda-tion, the structural deficit facing the Legislature for maintenance-level spending is now $4.3 billion, al-most 15 percent of state spending. This has led to a budget shortfall affecting all areas of our state gov-ernment, including education, responsible development and health care—all issues I have strongly supported.

As the House prepares to undertake the FY2010 budget I have heard from many of my constituents advocating for protection of state services for those who most need them. I understand the fact that as our economy worsens the state agencies and non-profits that serve our most vulnerable populations are seeing demand for their services grow as their budgets decrease. Given our challenges, I have been advocating that the most vulnerable in our population are not harmed by the budget cuts. As the newly appointed House chair of the committee on public health, I am also mindful that we not abandon our commonwealth’s commitment to the pub-lic health of our residents while we work to cure our fiscal health.

As we prepare to start the budgetary process for the coming fiscal year, the Legislature is going to be confronted with difficult choices. Under the leadership of Speaker Robert DeLeo, the House of Representa-tives is committed to reforming state institutions by initiating cost-saving measures and cutting waste, while we also consider new forms of revenue.

Predictions generally point to most tax categories declining over the next 18 months, which means contin-ued measures to cut costs throughout all areas of government. However, the unexpectedly fast pace of dete-rioration of the economy will cause the commonwealth to enter the next fiscal year with a budget gap of be-tween $3 billion and $4 billion. It is important to find responsible solutions through the budget process that will ensure our state institutions are viable and economically sound.

I assure you that my concern about the needs of my constituents remains steadfast, and I will be working hard within the Legislature to address the budget crisis. Thank you to those who have done consistent advo-cacy for the needs of the citizens of the commonwealth.

State Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez
Jamaica Plain

The writer is the chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health in the House of Representatives, Common-wealth of Massachusetts, Room 130,
State House, Boston 02133-1054.

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