Our state budget is how our Commonwealth funds the things we do together to strengthen our communities, make life better for our people, and build a vibrant economy. The budget process works best when the choices are clear to everyone and made in as deliberate of a manner as possible, considering long-term issues as well as immediate challenges.
As budget writers prepare for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018, it appears that the Commonwealth again faces a significant gap between ongoing revenue sources and the cost of maintaining current services. This has been the case for many years in Massachusetts, with a series of budgets balanced using temporary revenue sources and savings initiatives that may prove to be temporary in nature (such as early retirement strategies that can lose their fiscal effectiveness if it turns out that the people who retired need to be replaced). Because the Commonwealth has been using temporary revenue to balance the budget during this period of economic expansion, we have not been able to build up the level of reserves to be prepared for the next recession.
We have also seen a pattern of instability, with mid-year budget cuts and, this year, major changes to the budget very late in the budget process. This pattern is caused partly by a lack of adequate transparency in the budget process.
Two steps by state government would allow for a significantly more transparent process and, likely, fewer unwanted budget surprises in the future.
Continue reading the entire Budget Preview here...
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