Did you see that legislative leaders on Beacon Hill are already floating another borrowing bill?
Eight months ago, the S&P Global Ratings lowered the Commonwealth’s bond rating to AA from AA+. Among the chief concerns cited by the credit agency were Massachusetts’s “elevated debt levels, and below-average pension funded ratio.” The most glaring practical effect of this downgrade is that it is now more expensive for our state to borrow money.
In this last budget alone, Governor Baker was forced to allocate $2.66 billion on debt service. One would think that now would be a good time to quit borrowing so much and begin working down our debts. Not so, Massachusetts!
Legislative leaders continue to stick their fingers in their ears and ignore the problem.
Their insatiable appetite for spending reared its head today as they floated an upcoming $3.5 BILLION bond bill to pay for what they say is basic maintenance on state and local government buildings and “local projects” (See: Pork Barrel Spending). This is on top of the $1.7 billion borrowing bill passed by the House at the end of January.
Our state budget has grown by 60% since 2006, but for Beacon Hill politicians it’s simply not enough. Legislative leaders want to keep borrowing billions of dollars a month to pay for earmark laden projects filled with obscure pork-barrel spending. With all the scandals on Beacon Hill over the last few months, it’s the only way to keep their rank and file members happy. No amount of taxpayer money is too much for them to hang on to power.
We’ll have more on this as it makes its way through the legislative channels. Stay tuned!
BOSTON – In response to an astounding new report released by WCVB on state lawmaker travel, Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance took legislators to task for the excessive number of special interest-paid trips to exotic locations they have taken over the last several years.
The report noted that dozens of lawmakers have taken special interest-funded “junkets” to exotic locations such as Israel, Taiwan, Turkey, Saint Thomas, and the Azores. “Those are just a few of the locations,” noted Paul D. Craney, MassFiscal spokesman. “From the reports you would think these lawmakers worked for the State Department and not their local legislature.”
“Some of these lawmakers are taking these junket trips more than once a month to vacation hotspots, and it’s all being paid for by lobbyists and special interests,” said Craney. “In my mind, it brings up major issues relating to conflicts of interest and influence peddling.”
Of particular note was State Senator Marc Pacheco of Taunton. Pacheco, who recently voted himself a 121% raise that hiked his yearly salary to over $154,000 a year, has taken 28 trips since 2014. “Pacheco is by far one of the most frequent flyers,” commented Craney. “The State Senate has only met formally 31 times since it this session convened in January of 2017. In that same time period, State Senator Pacheco has taken 10 special interest-funded trips to locations ranging from Austria to Quebec. Clearly, it’s a great year to be State Senator Marc Pacheco.”
“In the age of email, VOIP calling, and online video conferencing these types of trips should be less necessary, not more,” finished Craney.
Original Report Available Here: http://www.wcvb.com/article/state-legislators-take-hundreds-of-free-trips-to-vacation-hot-spots/16020928
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Last night Governor Baker outlined his many accomplishments, as well as priorities for the fourth and final year of his first term in office. He touched on finding solutions for the opioid crisis as well as investing in public housing and our aging population. He cited nationally recognized achievements such as being ranked #1 in innovation for the past two years according to Bloomberg, as well as getting an A- for small business friendliness from Thumbtack up from a D+ just a few years earlier. While these are noteworthy accomplishments, we must be diligent in addressing the areas where we struggle.
According to the latest Tax Foundation study, Massachusetts currently holds the highest debt per capita in the country. This debt load is often raised as a concern by credit rating agencies. Despite this, the legislature continues to pass borrowing bills, adding to an already massive problem.
Truth in Accounting’s annual Financial State of the States study refers to Massachusetts as a “sinkhole” state. Each year, the Commonwealth’s outstanding bills increase due to the rise in pension liability and bonds payable, while our assets continue to decrease, resulting in an “F” grading for 2017. A study by the Mercatus Center ranks Massachusetts as 48th in the nation for fiscal health.
As we have mentioned in the past, last year MassHealth made up over 40% of the state’s budget. Although a reform bill is promised in the legislature, we are not sure if it will do enough to address this problem. Instead of trying to stem the growth of this financial liability, last year Beacon Hill passed a tax on employers to help pay for the massive increase in MassHealth. Spending on the program has more than doubled over the last 10 years. If our state is to ever get a handle on its out of control spending, we need to stop kicking this can down the road and pass serious, comprehensive reform on this out of control program.
This November we face multiple ballot questions that could potentially hurt the very people and employers that create and sustain jobs here in MA. We have the possibility of passing a $15 an hour minimum wage, as well as enacting a paid family leave proposal. Both will have major, negative impacts on small businesses across the state. Further, Proposition 80 has the potential to scare away our state’s highest income earners. Under that proposal, the 900 top earners would pay 53% of the new tax revenues.
While the issues presented above are extremely complex and will certainly force our lawmakers to make difficult decisions, the long-term health of our Commonwealth is at stake with each and every one of them. We cannot simply forget about these issues and push them down the road for future generations to deal with.
We look forward to the release of the House and Senate budgets that begin to tackle our state’s long-term, structural budgetary problems.