With a deteriorating transportation system and a need for more investment in education, Newton legislators said last week Governor Deval Patrick's fiscal 2014 budget and new tax proposals are the beginning of a long, but necessary, discussion in Massachusetts.
"[Patrick] has started an important conversation," Newton Rep. Ruth Balser told Newton Patch last week.
Last week, Patrick unveiled his $34.8 billion fiscal 2014 budget, which included a comprehensive package and tax proposal aimed at investing in the state's infrastructure and education.
The proposal asks for an increase in the income tax from 5.25 percent to 6.25 percent coupled with a reduction in the sales tax from 6.25 percent to 4.5 percent. It also doubles personal exemptions.
Patrick's budget calls for a total investment of $6.79 billion in education next year, with $131 million going toward early education, $226 million in Chapter 70 local aid, and $152 million toward making college more affordable and accessible.
In transportation funding, Patrick is asking for a $13 billion capital investment over 10 years, including money to repair roads and create a public transportation system that is modern and reliable.
When it comes to Patrick's budget and tax plan, Balser said it is clear that the governor has two goals: to raise revenue and to make the tax system more fair.
Balser says she supports those two goals, however, it will be important over the next few months to drill down into the budget details before moving forward with any tax changes.
Both Balser and Newton Rep. Kay Khan agreed that the governor's focus on transportation and education is important, especially in the city of Newton.
Although "the thought of raising taxes is always a difficult," Khan said she is "interested" in the proposal and will continue analyze the details budget discussions continue over the next few months.
"There are so many things we need to accomplish, it's important to look at our taxes," Khan says.
While she agrees with Patrick's goal to address the state's transportation problem, Sen. Cindy Creem (D-Newton) said the governor's proposal is just the starting point of a long process. There is still more work to be done and more details to sort through, Creem said, as there are "a lot of different ramifications" that come along with tax changes.
"I don't think we should rush to judgement about [the proposal]," Creem said.
Creem also emphasized that the governor's budget is not the last set of numbers, as the House and Senate will be working on their own budgets over the next few weeks.
"Oftentimes the economy is in a different place between the governor's budget proposal and the Senate proposal," Creem said.
Local aid to Newton
When it comes to budget allocations specifically for Newton, Khan said she is hopeful the state will be able to preserve, if not increase, the local aid amount from last year.
"I would hope that we could maintain that [local aid] and do better," Khan said.
According to the fiscal 2014 local aid estimates posted on the state's website, Newton is slated to receive the same amount of unrestricted government aid as it did in fiscal 2013, around $4.97 million. Overall, the total amount of fiscal 2014 general government aid for Newton is around $5.6 million, a $145,000 increase over last year.
As for education funding, the current fiscal 2013 cherry sheet estimate has Newton receiving a little more than $21 million in Chapter 70 funding, roughly $4.87 million more than last year.
What do you think of the governor's proposal? Do you believe that he has started the right conversation? Tell us in the comments section below.