Wass: House budget cuts will ‘hamper’ state’s economic prospects

 MTA President Anne Wass slammed the recently passed budget of the state House of Representatives, saying the education cuts it contained would “ultimately hamper our economic prospects in both the short term and long term.”

The House passed its budget April 30, keeping the education cuts proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee. It passed no amendments to add money to either Chapter 70 or higher education.

The $27.8 billion budget includes $135 million in cuts to public higher education funding, a $116 million cut in Chapter 70 school assistance, and $37 million in cuts to local aid to cities and towns. That adds up to a 14 percent decrease in higher education funding, a 3 percent cut in Chapter 70 funding, and a 4 percent cut in local aid.

The budget now goes to the state Senate, which is expected to release its version probably by May 19. The budget will then be on the floor for the week of May 24.

In a statement, Wass said: "We understand that we are facing a serious budget shortfall. However, rather than simply making deep cuts, we must also do all we can to increase revenues and invest in education. Education is the key to our future economic well-being and must not be compromised or hindered. Our students’ success is key to our state’s success.

“We urge every member of the Legislature to recognize how critical our public schools and colleges are to our students and our economy and to join with the governor in seeking full funding for local aid to cities and towns, Chapter 70 school assistance and our state’s public higher education system.

“We also call on legislators to adopt a series of proposals that would generate approximately $600 million in new revenue. They include: repealing tax exemptions on candy and soda and aircraft sales; eliminating the exemption on cigars and smokeless tobacco from the excise rate; limiting the tax credit on life sciences; repealing the film tax credit; and restoring the tax rate for dividends and interest to 12 percent.

“On the national level, we are advocating for immediate passage of the Keep Our Educators Working Act, introduced today by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chair of the Senate Education Committee. The federal bill would provide $23 billion to extend the state stabilization funds that were included in the stimulus package that has preserved thousands of education jobs in Massachusetts and across the country this year.”