- March 15 2010
Appearing before the Joint Committee on Public Service, MTF President Michael J. Widmer testified in support of the Governor's pension reform bill, which would save an estimated $2 billion over the next 30 years by making modest changes in the pension plan for state and local government employees in Massachusetts. Unless addressed, the escalating and unsustainable costs of pension and health benefits for public employees will lead to the layoffs of thousands of teachers, police, firefighters and other municipal employees across the state in the years ahead.
According to a recent report by the Pew Center on the States, Massachusetts is one of only eight states with more than one-third of its total pension liability unfunded. Many municipal pension plans are in even worse shape; roughly half of the 104 plans have lower funded ratios than the state, and 10 communities are funded below 50 percent.
As a result of the sharp decline in pension assets and the corresponding increase in unfunded liabilities, virtually every city and town is facing a large jump in pension payments in either their fiscal 2011 or 2012 budgets. To address this problem, the Legislature is considering a 10-year extension of the pension payment schedule for municipalities from 2030 to 2040. However, passing an extension of the payment schedule without key reforms that address costs will likely lead to a series of credit downgrades for many municipalities, exacerbating their already difficult financial conditions.
- March 1 2010
The Governor's reliance on more than $2 billion of one-time funds in his $31.7 billion fiscal 2011 budget will require major budget cuts in 2012. According to the Foundation's analysis, even if revenues grow by $1 billion in 2012, the state would still confront a $2.5 billion shortfall with virtually no state and federal reserves to help close the gap. In addition, should the voters this November approve a ballot initiative to reduce the state's sales tax from 6.25 to 3 percent, the state will face a $5 billion structural gap in fiscal 2012, as well as an immediate $1 billion revenue shortfall in fiscal 2011.
- December 16 2009
State tax revenues for fiscal 2011 will total $18.953 billion, a $674 million increase over the fiscal 2010 revised benchmark, according to a new forecast today by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation.
MTF President Michael J. Widmer, who presented the forecast at the annual consensus revenue hearing, said, "Even with this revenue growth, the state faces an estimated $3 billion structural deficit in fiscal 2011."
- December 10 2009Despite steps taken by the Governor and Legislature, the fiscal 2010 budget is $300 - $500 million out of balance. Because of the heavy reliance on one-time funds in 2010, the state faces a structural deficit of $3 billion in fiscal 2011, which will require spending reductions comparable to cuts in 2010 spending.
- November 2009
Cities and towns across the Commonwealth are facing enormous fiscal pressures which will only worsen over the next two years and likely beyond. Confronted by structural deficits in good times, municipalities have had to deal with major cuts in local aid during two recessions this decade. There will be further cuts in state aid in fiscal 2011, made worse by the end of federal stimulus dollars which have been supporting Chapter 70 education aid.
The dramatically increasing costs of health insurance and the large jump in unfunded pension liabilities must be addressed through comprehensive reform. Controlling the growth of municipal health care costs, which have increased at five times the inflation rate since 2001, is the most important step cities and towns can take to weather the fiscal storm ahead.
- October 27 2009A special section on health care in the Wall Street Journal of October 27, 2009 included two opinion pieces debating the merits of Massachusetts' health reform law, with MTF President Michael J. Widmer describing the law's success at achieving near universal health insurance coverage. Despite the efforts of ideologues, academics and politicians to discredit the reform, the facts tell the story of the law's enormous accomplishments.
- October 9 2009President Michael J. Widmer presented MTF's revised fiscal 2010 revenue forecast to the Senate and House Ways and Means Committee.
- September 14 2009
In a presentation to business and government leaders, MTF President Michael Widmer described the global recession's enormous impact on state and local finances and the state's dependence on $5 billion of one-time state and federal funds to balance the fiscal 2009 and 2010 budgets.