As the FY 2016 budget season begins, the Commonwealth continues to suffer from the effects of the three billion dollars of income tax cuts
enacted over a decade ago. As a result of those tax cuts, the state has been forced to make deep cuts in funding for public higher education, local aid, public health protection, and other core state services. Even with those budget cuts, the state continues to face preliminary budget gaps at the start of each year's budget process. This year that gap is likely to be just over $1 billion - less than the gaps faced during the recent recession, but a serious challenge for budget writers. MassBudget's FY 2016 Budget Preview
describes the state's fiscal condition as the budget season begins.
To present everyone with a clearer picture of the state's fiscal condition and the choices that get made through the state budget, the state could release more detailed information about the projected FY 2016 costs for maintaining current services--see Opening the Process: Releasing Maintenance Budgets to the Public
. While budget writers generally prepare such a document ("a maintenance budget") as the first step of crafting a budget, it is generally not released publicly. Other states do publicly release a maintenance budget. Making this public would improve transparency and allow everyone to understand more accurately the choices we face. That would allow more meaningful participation, by more people across the state, in the important debates about the priorities pursued in our state budget.
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