Berkshire County Lawmakers Watching State Revenues Closely
As tax revenue collections in Massachusetts are falling below benchmarks, lawmakers in the Berkshires are warning against potential budget cuts that would put a burden on Western Massachusetts residents. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…
Earlier this month, state Revenue Commissioner Amy Pitter said that preliminary revenue collections for October 2012 totaled $1.4 billion. That’s 3.3%, or $48 million, below what was taken in the same month last year. It was also revealed that for Fiscal Year 2013, revenues are currently 256 million below year-to-date benchmarks.
Then Commissioner Pitter said the numbers illustrate a slower recovery from the recession. And now that the fiscal cliff is also looming on the horizon, it’s apparent that budget cuts could be imminent.
Under state law, Governor Deval Patrick has the ability to make mid-year budget revisions downward if determined necessary. And lawmakers in the Berkshires are warning about what cuts they would see most harmful.
Democratic State Senator Benjamin Downing who serves on the Senate Ways and Means Committee said that if cuts were necessary, he’d like to see two areas spared: public higher education and local aid to cities and towns.
4th Berkshire District Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli, who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee also agreed that cuts to local aid should be avoided or minimized, but he also stressed that it may be too early in the fiscal year to call what should be cut. Pignatelli said the uncertainty with the looming fiscal cliff is also presenting difficulties in making projections.
Pignatelli also said that if necessary, the state has a healthy rainy day fund to help reduce the impact of budget cuts.
Recently a report by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation entitled State Tax Expenditures: More Than Meets the Eye said that due to a law signed in July, some tax expenditure reporting will not be included in future budgets, including two key areas: sales tax on personal and professional services and real estate sales. Carolyn Ryan, a policy analyst at the MTF said those changes alter the state’s FY 2013 tax expenditures from the original 26.6 billion to 13.4 billion.
Tax expenditures are money the state chooses not to collect due to exemptions in tax laws.
State Senator Downing said that the estimate by MTF which says tax exemptions are half of what the state estimates shines a light on the fact that in tough fiscal times, it may be time to take a closer look and update the tax code.