Specific and General Budget Policies

Specific Budget Policies

The Governor’s budget recommendations for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2010 and ending June 30, 2011 are included in the following budget document and tools within.  This submitted budget is balanced, outlines expenditures that are recommended, and provides sufficient revenues to fund those expenses.  The Commonwealth uses a statutory basis of accounting to define the term ‘balanced’ where actual revenues received within the fiscal year must meet or exceed actual expenditures.

The state’s finance laws are outlined in Chapter 29 of the Massachusetts General Laws.  They require that the Governor file a balanced budget, that the House and Senate each produce a balanced budget, and that the final general appropriation act (GAA) is in balance accordingly.  Any supplemental budget bill that may accompany or follow a budget cannot impair the overall fiscal balance.  One method of achieving balance may be through drawing from the Commonwealth’s Stabilization Fund, also known as the Rainy Day Fund. 

The budget may be amended through the filing of a supplemental budget request, which is submitted by the Governor to the House of Representatives.  Supplemental budgets follow the same process as the overall budget, going first to the House Committee on Ways and Means, then to the House for approval, followed by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and the full Senate.  If there are differences between the House and Senate versions, a conference committee convenes to produce a final supplemental bill that is then enacted by both chambers and then sent to the Governor for approval.  The Governor then has the same line-item veto authority as with the general budget, where he is able to veto specific amounts from particular line items, entire line items, or entire provisions of language.

Prior to the Governor’s submission of the budget, the Secretary of Administration and Finance and the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means are required to reach agreement on a “consensus tax revenue forecast” from which to build their spending projections.  The consensus revenue process for fiscal year 2011 is discussed in more detail later in this section.

Generally, expenditures may not exceed the level of spending authorized for an appropriation account.  However, the Commonwealth is statutorily required to pay debt service, regardless of whether such amounts are appropriated.

State finance law requires the Commonwealth to monitor revenues and expenditures during a fiscal year. As such, the Secretary of Administration and Finance is required to provide quarterly revenue estimates to the Governor and the Legislature, and the Comptroller publishes a quarterly report of planned and actual revenues. Department heads are required to notify the Secretary of Administration and Finance and the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means of any anticipated decrease in estimated revenues for their departments from the federal government or other sources. Those same parties are also notified if a department projects that any appropriation will be insufficient to meet all expenditures required in the fiscal year by any law, rule, regulation or order not subject to administrative control.

If a revenue shortfall is identified, the Governor is required by section 9C of Chapter 29 to reduce agency appropriations or recommend a transfer from the Stabilization Fund.  If additional revenues are available, the Governor may recommend a supplemental budget.  At the end of the fiscal year, the Comptroller determines the statutory balance of the budgeted funds and transfers any excess funds to the Stabilization Fund.

General Fiscal Policies of the Commonwealth

The following principles and policies were used to guide the development of the fiscal year 2011 budget.  Above all else, state finance law requires the Governor’s budget and all later versions to be in balance; expenditures must not exceed available revenues.  In addition, House 2 includes the following principles and goals:

Strategic Fiscal Policies

In developing the budget, special attention was paid to the following areas:

Financial Reporting

The Commonwealth possesses strong reporting capabilities, supported by accounting and payroll systems that are used consistently throughout state agencies and from which data is updated to an information warehouse.

Cash Flow
Expenditure Controls
Internal Controls
Debt Affordability
Capital Budget
Other Post-Employment Benefits

Overview of Budget Funds

Government Fund Types account for the general governmental activities of the Commonwealth and are organized as follows:

Budgeted Funds are the primary operating funds of the Commonwealth.  They account for all budgeted governmental transactions.  The main budgeted funds include the General Fund, the Commonwealth Stabilization Fund, the Commonwealth Health and Prevention Fund, the Workforce Training Fund, the Massachusetts Tourism Fund, and the Commonwealth Transportation Fund, which are identified by the Comptroller as the operating funds of the Commonwealth.

Non-Budgeted Special Revenue Funds are established by law to account for specific revenue sources that have been segregated from the budgeted funds to support specific governmental activities such as federal grants, funds related to the tobacco settlement and the operations of the state lottery.

Capital Projects Funds account for financial resources used to acquire or construct major capital assets and to finance local capital projects. These resources are derived from proceeds of bonds and other obligations, which are generally received after related expenditures have been incurred, operating transfer authorized by the Legislature and federal reimbursements. Deficit balances in the Capital Projects Funds represent amounts to be financed.

Fiduciary Funds account for assets held by the Commonwealth in a trustee capacity (Trust Funds), or as an agent (Agency Funds) for individuals, private organizations, other governmental units, and/or other funds.

Expendable Trust Funds account for trusts whose principal and investment income may be expended for a designated purpose.

Nonexpendable Trust Funds account for trusts whose principal cannot be spent.

Post Employment Benefit Trust Fund account for the net assets available for plan benefits held in trust for State Employees’ and Teachers’ Retirement Systems and Other Post Employment Benefits (OPEB) for retirees.

Agency Funds account for assets the Commonwealth holds on behalf of others.  Agency Funds are custodial in nature and do not involve measurement of operations.

Individual Budgeted Funds

Statutory balance is defined as a measure of the fiscal condition which includes current year budgeted revenues and expenditures plus any designated revenues from prior years, stabilization deposit and funds carried forward.  It also includes any use of stabilization or any other non-budgeted reserves. A more general discussion of the funds is below:

The General Fund is the Commonwealth’s primary governmental fund.  All governmental activities not specifically directed to another fund are accounted for in the General Fund.  As a result, most budgeted expenditures of the Executive secretariats, the Legislature, Constitutional offices, Judiciary, institutions of higher education and independent commissions are paid for from the General Fund.  It similarly receives a significant portion of sales, individual income and corporate taxes, and the full amount of most other governmental taxes. It also receives federal reimbursement generated by the Commonwealth’s Medicaid expenditures.

The Commonwealth Transportation Fund accounts for road and highway use revenues, including the gas tax, registry fees and 0.385% of the sales tax.  The fund is used to pay debt service associated with highway maintenance and construction projects and provides funding for the operation of the independent Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).  Established as part of the historic transportation reforms implemented in fiscal year 2010, the fund is new for fiscal year 2011 and replaces the former Highway Fund as the principal source of transportation related revenues and expenditures for the Commonwealth. 

The Workforce Training Fund, authorized by section 2RR of Chapter 29 of the General Laws and administered by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, provides employers with matching grants of up to $250,000  over two years to help train new and incumbent workers. To maximize the number of grants, however, DWD has established a temporary maximum grant of $100,000.  The Workforce Training Fund was established in July 1998, and is financed entirely by Massachusetts employers.  In fiscal year 2009, the Fund was financed by an employer surcharge of 0.06% on employees' wages, paid concurrently with payments into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.  Annual state revenues from employer contributions total approximately $21 million, and the state appropriation for training grants is typically rolled forward into the next fiscal year to provide for the second year of each grant award.  

The Massachusetts Tourism Fund, authorized in section 35J of Chapter 10 of the General Laws, is funded with 35 percent of the State's annual revenues received from the hotel occupancy tax authorized in section 3 of Chapter 64G.  In fiscal year 2011, Tourism Fund revenues are estimated to total $41 million. The Fund's use is prescribed in Chapter 10, which includes a formula that assigns various funding levels for tourism promotion programs and activities including the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, regional tourism promotion agencies, the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, the Cultural Facilities Fund, and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority.  While funding for the purposes prescribed in the section are being made in this budget, the specific requirements of the fund have been suspended through an outside section for the last several years. 

The Commonwealth Health and Prevention Fund is comprised of the revenues generated from the 2010 elimination of the sales tax exemption on the purchase of alcoholic beverages consumed off-premises, as well as the proposed repeal of the exemption on soda and candy.  This policy initiative aims to encourage healthy lifestyle choices. Monies appropriated from this fund will support programs and services that augment the health and well-being of the residents of the Commonwealth. 

The Marine Recreational Fisheries Development Fund accounts for all recreational saltwater fishing permit fees collected by the director of the division of marine fisheries. Fees collected in this fund shall be used for the development and administration of the recreational saltwater fishing permit program, to support science and conservation programs designed to improve recreational saltwater fishing and other recreational saltwater fishing improvement programs.

The Commonwealth Stabilization Fund is a reserve to enhance the Commonwealth’s fiscal stability. (A later section describes the Stabilization Fund in more detail.)

Administrative Control Funds account for the revenues generated by certain administrative functions of government, for which the Legislature has required that separate funds be established.  These funds include:

The Inland Fisheries and Game Fund accounts for revenues from license and permit fees for inland fishing, hunting, trapping, and sporting licenses and revenue-producing stamps or the sales of land, rights and properties, gifts, interest, and federal grant reimbursements. These revenues are used for developing, maintaining and operating the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife within the Department of Fish and Game.