Editorial: Budgets in
With the addition of the state Senate’s plan, this year’s menu for Massachusetts spending is complete.
However, now comes the time for the parties involved — the House, the Senate and the governor — to “pick one from column A and two from column B” and decide on a final commonwealth budgetary package of spending and taxes.
Of the three budget proposals submitted so far, Gov. Deval Patrick’s version arguably took the longest view of what Massachusetts needs. In particular, it addressed money — and how to raise it — for transportation and educational infrastructure.
By contrast, both houses of the General Court put together proposals that were not as bold as the governor’s plan. And, as usual, they also don’t mirror each other.
While the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s version does call for an increase in spending ($1.4 billion for a $33.9 billion fiscal 2014 budget) it asks to do so at a lower amount than either the House or the governor.
So you might say it’s a more conservative approach — its priorities are different.
The Senate plan aims at improving human services: Special education is targeted for “new” money to the tune of $22.4 million. Additional funding is also slated for early education, elder home care and housing assistance for the poor. This time around, the Senate didn’t think it necessary to add much to the higher education budget. Nor did the senators adopt the governor’s idea of a significant investment in transportation.
In fact, the Senate didn’t even take a stab at such an increase.
“Massachusetts continues to face a number of fiscal challenges as we continue to recover from the economic collapse five years ago,” said Stephen M. Brewer, chairman of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget makes a number of targeted investments that will sustain the Commonwealth for years to come, building on innovation and efficiency while maintaining a partnership with our municipal partners and providing services to residents most in need.”
As to the differences between the Senate’s plan and the ones proposed by the governor or the House, Brewer later said, “We can’t be all things to all people all the time.”
That’s true. But it’s also true that spending another year in which state government doesn’t honestly assess what’s needed for transportation and education is only going to hurt Massachusetts down the road.
And that time, we’re afraid, is coming up fast.
We’ll see what emerges from the negotiations.