A Gala was held on March 4, 2015 to honor Michael Widmer who retired from the MTF in February after more than two decades as its president. Hundreds of members, friends and supporters attended the event which was held at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
Since 1996, the Foundation has won 16 prestigious national awards from the Governmental Research Association (GRA) for its work on a wide array of topics, including health care, business costs, capital spending, state finances, MBTA restructuring, transportation and state government reform.
The Foundation won the GRA's 2012 award for Outstanding Policy Achievement for its far-reaching, multiyear effort to achieve important changes in state law that gave municipal officials the power to control their skyrocketing health insurance costs. Beginning in July 2005, the Foundation's seven major research reports and sustained leadership were essential to the passage of the state's groundbreaking reform law signed July 12, 2011. Below, MTF President Michael J. Widmer stands with Anneliese Dickman from the Public Policy Forum in Milwaukee, WI, after recieving the award.
The Foundation won the GRA's 2012 award for Most Distinguished Research for its work on municipal retiree health care costs and in particular its publication of two reports, Retiree Health Care: The Brick That Broke Municipalities’ Backs  and The Crushing Burden of Municipal Retiree Health Care . The reports identified the liabilities of other post-employment benefits (OPEB) as a key issue affecting the long-term fiscal health of local governments and detailed their potentially crippling impact on taxpayers. The Foundation’s reports were the first in Massachusetts to disclose the true magnitude of the municipal retiree health care problem, with the state’s 50-largest communities alone facing a crushing $20 billion liability that is 99.98 percent unfunded and two-and-a-half times larger than their unfunded pension liability. Below, MTF President Michael J. Widmer receives the award from Joseph Stefko from the Center for Governmental Research in Rochester, N.Y.
The Foundation won the GRA's 2010 award for Outstanding Policy Achievement for its vital role in passage of transportation reform. The Foundation was recognized for its efforts beginning in 2004 and culminating in last year’s reform legislation, which created a much stronger and cohesive Department of Transportation and generated savings of tens of millions of dollars each year through changes in MBTA health benefits and other efficiencies
The Foundation was awarded the GRA's 2009 Certificate of Merit for research on the fiscal and economic impact of Ballot Question 1 to eliminate the state's income tax and a public education campaign to persuade policy makers, the media and voters to oppose the referendum.
The Foundation won the GRA's 2006 award for Outstanding Policy Achievement for its vital role in passage of the state's landmark health care reform. The Foundation was recognized for its broad contributions, in particular, helping to forge the compromise between the House and Senate leadership which led to the final legislation, as well as its detailed and accurate analysis of the finances of health care reform. A centerpiece of the Foundation's work was its December 2005 report, Health Care Reform: Expanding Access Without Sacrificing Jobs .
The Foundation received GRA's 2005 award for Most Effective Education. The entry, Confronting the New Fiscal Challenge: Budget Deficits in a Period of Economic Recovery, was recognized for a series of reports, legislative briefings, and subsequent media coverage that highlighted the state's long-term fiscal problems.
In 2005, the Foundation won a certificate of merit for Outstanding Policy Achievement for its September 2003 report, Reforming the Commonwealth's $2 Billion Purchase of Human Services: Meeting the Promise for Clients and Taxpayers .
The Foundation's work on behalf of state government reform received the 2003 award for Outstanding Policy Achievement. The award recognized the Foundation's reports and recommendations encouraging reform of state government, beginning with its May 2002 report, The Commonwealth's Fiscal Crisis: Opportunity for Important Spending Reforms . In this report and a series of subsequent publications, MTF made the case for management improvements in a variety of areas across state government that were addressed in part in the 2004 budget, including restructuring of the human services bureaucracy and environmental and economic agencies, increased administrative flexibility in the courts, a more equitable sharing of health premium costs, and improved budgetary accounting.
The Foundation's report MBTA Capital Spending: Derailed by Expansion? , was honored with the Mosrt Distinguished Research award in 2002. The February 2002 report concluded that the MBTA could not pay for expansion projects without sacrificing critical maintenance and modernization of the existing system or incurring an even higher mountain of debt and undermining its financial stability.
The Foundation's work on the state's fiscal crisis was recognized forMost Effective Education in 2002. Beginning with its January 2001report, The Perfect Storm ,the Foundation documented the causes and extent of the state's fiscalproblems and made a series of recommendations for addressing the largebudget shortfalls.
MTF was presented with a 2001 certificate of merit in the Effective Citizen Education category for a major study of the effects of Question 5, a health care measure that appeared on the November 2000 ballot. In The Costs of Question 5 to Massachusetts Taxpayers, Employers, and Consumers , MTF concluded that the initiative would have costed state taxpayers, employers and consumers between $2.8 and $5.6 billion. The report played a critical role in defeating Question 5, which would have eliminated most of the elements of managed care, in Massachusetts.
MTF was presented with the 2000 Special Achievement award for its combination of research and leadership to help enact and implement the landmark MBTA "forward funding" legislation. In particular, the Foundation was recognized for its June 1999 report, The Third Rail: Financing the MBTA . The report highlighted the MBTA's antiquated financial structure, which burdened the state's taxpayers with an ever-increasing share of the T's cost, and supported legislation to institute a new financing mechanism with powerful incentives for the MBTA to control costs and increase revenues.
MTF was recognized in the Most Effective Citizen Education category for its January 1999 report, Reaching the Breaking Point: The Commonwealth's Capital Dilemma . The report highlighted the Commonwealth's capital crisis stemming from its high debt burden, the immense financing needs of the Central Artery project, large cutbacks in federal highway aid, and an enormous backlog of critical capital investments. The report warned that the state's long-term economic health would be jeopardized if additional resources were not directed to important capital projects. Among the report's recommendations were restoring Registry fees, tapping operating budget surpluses, raising tolls more and sooner than currently planned, reforming the public construction process, and increasing funding for deferred maintenance.
MTF was recognized in the Most Effective Citizen Education category for its series of publications entitled, Managing Prosperity: The Responsible Use of Budgetary Surpluses. The award recognized MTF's analysis and recommendations for dealing with the state's large surpluses in 1997 and 1998. The Foundation's series of reports focused on the need for thoughtful financial decisions in order to avoid mistakes of the kind that contributed to the state's severe fiscal crisis at the beginning of the decade. The MTF analysis recommended that the surplus monies be apportioned in a balanced way among tax cuts, one-time capital projects and the rainy day fund.
MTF's August 1995 report An Economy in Transition: Reducing the High Cost of Doing Business in Massachusetts , was recognized in the Most Effective Citizen Education category. The study - and an earlier version in 1993 - documented for the first time the significant cost disadvantages facing Massachusetts employers.
MTF received a Special Achievement award for its series on capital spending and state debt. Featuring the September 1995 report, Massachusetts Capital Spending: Collision Course?, the series highlighted the dilemma created by the state's capital demands and high debt load.