To the People of Massachusetts:
Lieutenant Governor Murray and I are proud to file our budget recommendations for fiscal year 2011. This budget reflects our collective values and makes investments in critical areas that will help us strengthen our economy in the near-term and position us for growth and prosperity over the long-term.
As with each budget we have submitted – and those we have revised amidst unprecedented global economic challenges – our fiscal year 2011 budget is guided by an important set of principles.
First, we are investing in our economy and our people: The economic downturn has undeniably strained the state budget, as it has likewise strained the finances of individuals, families and businesses across Massachusetts. But whatever the fiscal challenges we face today, we remain committed to investing in the Commonwealth’s economy and our people.
Thus, we have consistently protected Chapter 70 education aid from budget cuts because I believe education is the single most important investment we can make in our future. Earlier this month, I signed into law a sweeping overhaul of our K-12 education system, aimed at turning around underperforming schools, closing the achievement gap and fostering innovation in education. This budget builds on our commitment to education. It funds Chapter 70 at more than $4.04 billion – the highest levels in history, with all school districts funded at foundation levels and no operating districts experiencing a cut. Together, these steps will help our education system prepare our students for a successful future in a global economy.
On top of protecting Chapter 70 funding, we are preserving current funding for unrestricted general government aid for cities and towns – a major short- and long-term economic investment in its own right and a lever to help reduce pressure on property taxes. This funding is in addition to the numerous tools we have worked to give cities and towns to help balance their budgets and protect police, fire and other essential community services. We are also submitting, in conjunction with this budget, a new set of proposals that will further assist local government in meeting the needs of those it serves.
And we are maintaining our commitment to health care reform, an initiative that sets Massachusetts apart as a leader in health care with the highest levels of health insurance coverage in the nation. Today, thanks to continued investment in this groundbreaking program, more than 97 percent of our population has health insurance. Investments in health care strengthen our economy by improving the health and productivity of our workforce and bolstering our world-renowned medical sector.
These investments are part of our comprehensive strategy to create jobs, speed economic recovery and promote long-term prosperity for the Commonwealth – along with investments in infrastructure through our capital plan, our cutting-edge life sciences and clean energy initiatives and our other efforts to preserve a strong safety net for those in need. This strategy is positioning Massachusetts to recover faster and stronger than the rest of the nation and achieve its full potential as a leader in the global economy.
Second, we are changing the culture on Beacon Hill: Delivering on changes that had been talked about for decades has been a cornerstone of our fiscal and larger policy agenda, reflecting our commitment to making state government more efficient and responsive to our residents and to restoring integrity to public service. Working with the Legislature, we implemented groundbreaking improvements to our transportation system and the first phase of pension reform, tightened ethics rules, introduced competition into the auto insurance market, increased use of civilian flaggers and implemented a host of structural reforms that are changing the face of state government for the better.
Our fiscal year 2011 budget and accompanying proposals build on this strong record of improvements, including the next phase of pension reform, a reorganization of our parole and probation departments to help make our communities safer, a more coordinated approach to purchasing energy for state government and additional budget reforms to promote sound fiscal practices and transparency.
Third, we are committed to fiscal responsibility: The investments that we have made in the people and in the future of the Commonwealth have been part of balanced, fiscally responsible budget blueprints. Bond rating agencies have praised our record of prudent fiscal management – including our prompt and thoughtful steps to close unforeseeable budget gaps driven by a deep and unprecedented global economic recession. That commitment to fiscal responsibility endures in our fiscal year 2011 budget. Total spending grows at a rate slower than expected growth in tax revenues, as we make major strides towards structural balance even in a still-difficult fiscal environment.
Yet fiscal responsibility is not simply about aggregate budget numbers but also the values embedded in our budgets. We have insisted that the sacrifice required by our current economic and fiscal climate be shared, to build confidence that our budgets are fair and avoid disproportionate harmful impacts. In this budget, we continue to deliver major support for the state budget from independent authorities – with a total of $30 million in contributions helping to fund college scholarships, Soft Second mortgages, health care outreach and enrollment grants, assistance for small businesses and other important state initiatives.
Fourth, we are working with our federal partners: We have worked closely with President Obama and our congressional delegation to support our economic agenda to create jobs, speed recovery, promote long-time prosperity and mitigate the immediate harmful impacts of the economic downturn. Thanks to that partnership, Massachusetts maintains a competitive advantage in securing the funding necessary to move forward on many important initiatives.
The Commonwealth is expected to receive approximately $14 billion through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including funding for education, life sciences, transportation, clean energy and health care that builds on our own initiatives and provides direct relief to our state’s residents. Our fiscal year 2011 budget likewise benefits from “use or lose” federal funds that have already been secured through our efforts and anticipates further federal support in the coming fiscal year.
We are very proud of our record of accomplishment over the past three years, achieved in partnership with the people of Massachusetts and the Legislature. Our fiscal year 2011 budget blueprint reflects the simple notion that we must continue moving forward. No matter how challenging the economic climate, we cannot afford to retreat from the important progress we have made over the last several years.
With our investments in our speeding economic recovery and laying the foundations for long-term prosperity, and our enduring commitment to fiscal responsibility and reform, we move forward to a bright future for the Commonwealth and its residents.
Deval L. Patrick