(Hedlund for Senate Minority Leader – promoted by EaBo Clipper)
Senator Hedlund had a very similar column to Rep. Jones’ in my local paper. I have attached the text below… it’s a very good read and really outlines how tough a shape the Commonwealth is in.
It also includes a nice section on the tax rollback!
Here is the column:
By Sen. Robert L. Hedlund
A good sign of whether the state is facing tough financial times is when budget negotiations start to stretch into July. It took the Legislature until July 3 this year to finally adopt a state budget for the fiscal year that began three days earlier – a sure sign that our chief budget writers are uncomfortable with how this year could play out.
To be sure, even though the House and Senate took the unusual step of meeting in formal sessions the day before a major holiday to pass the Commonwealth’s $28 billion budget, there is a very good chance that this budget could still require some major reworking.
One major concern is whether the state’s revenue growth projections will hold up. For example, Wall Street had a very poor month of June. If this develops into a trend, the state could see a significant drop in the amount of capital gains taxes we collect. But the biggest hinge point is whether the federal government will continue to grant the Commonwealth a crucial Medicaid waiver. If this waiver isn’t approved, we could find ourselves having to cut anywhere between $200 and $800 million from the budget. To prevent this from happening, the Patrick Administration has been lobbying the federal government hard, and has even reached out to Republicans such as Mitt Romney and Andy Card in an attempt to secure the waiver.
Regardless of the outcome of these negotiations, I remain adamant that any budgetary strain we may experience largely originates from the spending side of the ledger, not the revenue side. And it’s for this reason that I joined my five Republican colleagues in voting against the budget.
The state budget has doubled over the past 20 years, and even by the most conservative estimates, state revenue is expected to grow by about 3.8 percent next year – a figure that doesn’t include the more than $800 million in new taxes the Legislature has imposed over the past couple of weeks on business, smokers and homebuyers.
Back in May, I and my Republican colleagues commended the Senate for recognizing our fiscal situation and demonstrating some fiscal restraint in passing a budget that was $130 million less than the one approved by the House. However, the budget that was adopted by the Legislature on July 3 wasn’t just more than what the Senate approved, but also $30 million more than what the House approved. According to reports, House Ways and Means Chairman Robert DeLeo, embroiled in an internal leadership battle, dug his heels in and refused to budge on many of the spending figures and earmarks. And unfortunately, my Senate colleagues gave in and signed off on the largest state budget in the history of the Commonwealth.
The final version of the budget also lacked many of the amendments that I co-sponsored that would have brought some responsibility to state spending, including prohibiting the use of tax dollars for sex-change surgeries, hormone therapies, or laser hair removal for prisoners.
Other successful amendments that I co-sponsored that were stripped from the budget included:
• A crack-down on the support network for illegal immigrants and require companies doing businesses with the state to verify the status of their employees;
• Allowing towns to grant excise tax abatements to residents on active military duty;
• Creating special license plates for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars;
• Establishing a special statewide commission to look at our water infrastructure needs, and;
• Banning the Lottery from giving away tickets to sporting events as rewards to well-connected and already well-compensated Lottery agents and employees.
There were also several other “good government” types of amendments that either I or my Republican colleagues sponsored that didn’t even make it to the conference committee, including proposals to;
• reform our pension system by capping annual payouts and prohibiting state employees from having absurd allowances such as housing and parking spaces included in their pension calculations;
• strip the Lottery of its $10 million advertising budget, and;
• give state college students a $500 user fee tax credit.
And although it wasn’t successful, I am proud to once again have pushed for the income tax rollback that my constituents – as well as the rest of the state – voted for back in 2000. Considering voters will be given the option this fall to vote to abolish the income tax altogether – a proposal that almost passed in 2002 – I argued that finally rolling back the income tax to 5 percent may defuse this potential political bomb. But only one Democrat, Sen. James Timilty of Walpole, was willing to vote in favor of the amendment.
Personally, I don’t consider our budget debate over. My feeling is that either the Legislature or the Governor will be forced to face some unpleasant realities in coming months if revenues don’t materialize like they are supposed to, or if the cost of our statewide health plan continues to grow unabated. This budget would have been a great opportunity to make some tough but necessary budgetary decisions. Now we may find ourselves debating some painful choices come January.