Berkshire Legislators Urge Restraint on Spending Surplus

Nov 5, 2012

State lawmakers in Berkshire County are asking Massachusetts to hold onto its recently announced fiscal surplus, to use only in case of emergency. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

State financial officials announced last week that the Commonwealth is facing a $116 million surplus in last year’s FY 2012 budget. When desposited into the state’s so-called “Rainy Day Fund”, it brings that amount to over 1.6 billion dollars. That makes Massachusetts a state with one of the largest cash reserves in the country, only behind Texas and Alaska.

But despite the surplus, legislators in the Berkshires are asking the state to hold onto the money. State Senator Benjamin Downing said that there’s just too much uncertainty in the future.

Downing warned of any cuts in the Federal budget if Congress chooses to go over the so-called fiscal cliff- a series of automatic spending cuts that will take place if the Federal government cannot reach a deal to prevent it at the end of 2012. The cuts will affect income taxes, defense spending, and Medicare. The senator said that any cuts to Medicare would have a significant impact.

2nd Berkshire District Representative Paul Mark also shared Senator Downing’s sentiments about uncertainty, and said the fund should be kept as large as possible.

4th Berkshire District Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli used the recent scandal at a state-drug testing lab as an example of something unpredictable that could warrant having a healthy savings on hand. Recently, Governor Deval Patrick requested 30 million to cover legal expenses and other initial costs needed to handle the crisis.

Pignatelli said the surplus should not lead to any knee-jerk spending, also remarked about how the surplus contributes to Massachusetts’ favorable bond-rating. He also mentioned on how a surplus in previous years helped “soften the blow” with the economic collapse.  

1st Berkshire District Representative Gailanne Cariddi said that she’s glad to see the state manage its finances well too, but said that she would like to see more investment in some key areas in the future.

According to state financial officials, tax revenues for fiscal year 2013 were lower than expected. In response, the Governor’s administration announced more restrictions on state spending.