MTA stakes positions on House budget amendments
Unfortunately, H4000 does little to reverse the cuts to public education of the past several years. In fact, funding levels for public education -- pre-K-12 and higher education -- are below those proposed by Governor Mitt Romney in House 1.
Chapter 70 -- state aid to school districts -- is still $401 million below where it was in FY02, when adjusted for inflation and enrollment. Adjusted for inflation, the $465 million for grants and reimbursements is $8.4 million lower than the previously reduced FY05 level. While funding for public higher education is roughly 2 percent higher than current levels, when adjusted for inflation, it is still $337 million (28 percent) lower than it was in FY01.
MTA proposes that some of these cuts could be reversed by closing corporate tax loopholes as proposed in HB21, filed by the Governor in January. This would generate $170 million.
It is a well-established fact that a growing economy in the 21st century is dependent on a well-educated work force. The House budget proposal puts the progress of the past decade at risk. As a result of the cuts of the past three years, students are taught in larger classes, fewer courses are offered, vital support services are no longer available and high fees are charged for participation in athletics, music and art programs and for attending full-day kindergarten.
MTA urges the House to support the closing of corporate tax loopholes (Amendment 1172) and recommends using the $170 million generated from that to do the following:
Restore the Class Size Reduction Program: $18 million, #1163 Marzilli
Increase funding for MCAS Remediation Program: $20 million, #1292 Blumer
Increase funding for Full-Day Kindergarten: $5 million, #1064 OBrien
Increase Chapter 70 funding: $69 million, #1170 Marzilli
Increase funding to University of Massachusetts: $10 million, #353 Murphy, K.
Increase funding to state and community colleges: $8.6 million, #1102 Scibak
Restore Pothole account: $6.8 million, #603 Linsky
Restore Comprehensive Health Grants: $10 million, #942 Callahan
MTA opposes any attempt to lower the income tax rate and believes it would be fiscally irresponsible for the Legislature to do anything to decrease revenues that are needed to continue the progress in education.
State Employees Health Insurance
Two years ago, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed a provision in the budget that sunsets the increased premiums paid by state employees for their health insurance. In place of the premium split of 85/15, a tiered system was established that requires all employees earning over $35,000 to pay 20 percent and new employees to pay 25 percent. MTA urges House members to support amendment #396 offered by Rep. Martin Walsh (D-Dorchester) to return the split to 85/15.