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Publications from before 2018
Massachusetts’ taxes are about average for the United States. Where then does the label ‘Taxachusetts’ come from? The answer has much more to do with history than reality.
Partnership in Peril: Federal Funding at Risk for State Programs Relied on by Massachusetts Residents
This paper examines the major federal funding sources that the state uses to provide access to affordable health care, help children thrive, assist low-income families, and care for veterans. In addition to describing the sources of federal funding, we examine the policy changes Congress is likely to consider that could threaten this funding and the services the funding supports. This fiscal year, one of every four dollars that supports the state’s budget comes from the federal government 2–close to $11 billion in federal funds.
Where do the resources come from to operate Massachusetts’ transportation system, and where is the money spent? A detailed chart shows state revenues and spending for transportation operations and debt service in Fiscal Year 2015. The width of each arrows represents the amount of dollars that flow from one source or activity to another.
This preview examines both the challenges revenue gap facing the FY 2018 budget and two budget transparency reforms that could help avoid mid-year budget cuts and other unpleasant budget surprises in the future.
Organized as a series of charts, this paper details major trends in enrollment and state support for our two-year community colleges, four-year state universities, and the UMass system. And it makes several comparisons to other states. Overall, we find that despite the growing importance of public higher education to the long-term health of our state, Massachusetts has cut support since Fiscal Year 2001, and tuition and fees have grown substantially as a result.
As educators prepare our young people with the skills to thrive in the years ahead, vocational education is a growing focus of education debates. Enrollment in career, vocational and technical education has grown. Demand for such programs is outpacing supply, especially in Gateway Cities which have some of the longest waiting lists to enter these programs. Studies of successful examples of vocational programs within traditional high schools, regional vocational schools, and in-district vocational schools show common elements necessary to success. The cost of addressing existing waitlists are estimated.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has recognized that recent improvements to school meals programs can unintentionally reduce funding for low-income school districts as the result of less accurate headcounts of low-income students. The Department has already made significant improvements to its data systems and is developing further recommendations at the direction of the Legislature. Based on MassBudget’s ongoing research on direct certification and its impact on Chapter 70 funding, MassBudget has developed six recommendations to improve the Commonwealth’s low-income student count.
The cost to the state from special business tax break spending has nearly tripled, even after adjusting for inflation, from $370 million in 1996 to over $1 billion anticipated in this fiscal year. Despite the findings of a 2012 report from a state special commission that called for limiting these breaks and studying their effectiveness, most state business tax breaks have not faced a thorough examination.
Children in Massachusetts are better off as a whole than children nationally. And thanks to more than a decade’s worth of health reform in Massachusetts, children here are far more likely to have health insurance than children almost anywhere else in the U.S. Even so, close to one in seven children in Massachusetts lives in poverty, and is at risk for a wide variety of lifelong challenges.
With the release this week of new American Community Survey (ACS) data from the U.S. Census Bureau, it is clear that working families nationwide and here in Massachusetts made some important gains. While much of this is welcome news, the data also show that poverty rates remain well above pre-recession levels and median incomes remain below pre-recession peaks. Not everyone is sharing fully in the benefits of a growing economy. The ACS data also point the way toward other policy improvements that can lead to broadly shared prosperity.
Massachusetts is the national leader in providing health insurance coverage to its residents, thanks to health reform measures adopted a decade ago. The state’s health insurance coverage rate in 2015 was 97 percent, up about half a point from 2014. The gap between Massachusetts’ “nearly-universal” health care coverage and fully “universal” health care coverage gets smaller every year.
The SNAP Employment and Training Program: Opportunities to Expand Work Supports for Low-Income People in Massachusetts
Through recent work, state officials and leaders from the workforce training community have recognized the SNAP Employment & Training program as an important opportunity to help offset a portion of long-term funding cuts to workforce training in Massachusetts. This paper describes the SNAP E&T Program, which funds workforce training and related supports like transportation and childcare for people receiving training.
In conjunction with our online resource, the Jobs & Workforce Budget, this brief analyzes state support for workforce development over the past decade, finding that these programs have been cut by about 30 percent since FY 2001 (adjusted for inflation).
This Budget Monitor describes the funding decisions in each major section of the state budget for Fiscal Year 2017. It compares proposed funding levels with current and, in some cases, historic funding. It identifies a few bright spots and examines policy changes incorporated in various budget provisions. While vetoes and overrides are noted, the focus is on important budget items and the bigger picture in another difficult year. Earlier versions of the Budget Monitor previewed the budget and tracked its progress at each stage.
Eleven other states extend taxes on short-term rentals such as Airbnb. The factsheet explains the current Massachusetts exemption for short-term residential rentals and how taxing these bookings would work. It explains recent research on how rentals such as Airbnb can compete with traditional accommodations, and how these operations sometimes resemble a full-time business. It examines how much revenue the room occupancy tax currently generates and how much additional revenue would be raised if rentals such as Airbnb were included.
The state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) aims to improve the economic security of lower income working families by increasing their after-tax earnings. A growing body of research has found that raising the incomes of lower-income families provides benefits through the life-cycle: improving the health of children and mothers; boosting school performance; and increasing long-term earnings. MassBudget’s updated fact sheet examines a proposal from the Senate Ways and Means Committee to reform and increase the state EITC.
Income Growth and Gateway Cities: What Happened, and Is There a Path Back to Broadly Shared Prosperity?
It’s possible for an economy to grow in ways that expand opportunity and promote broadly shared prosperity. We know that’s possible because it’s exactly what happened in the United States in the three decades after World War II. But in the mid-1970s the pattern changed – across America, in Massachusetts, and particularly in our Gateway cities. Typical household incomes grew very little, if at all, for most Gateway Cities over the past few decades. Looking at data in each of the state’s 26 “Gateway Cities,” how would life could be different today if median wages in those cities had grown at the same rate as the overall economy.
How did the Legislature balance the budget in the face of a sudden $750 million shortfall? The revenue decline did not all translate into budget cuts. This Budget Monitor outlines the budget-balancing measures and offers an analysis of each major section of the state budget with comparisons to Fiscal Year 2016 and historic funding levels. It describes both where lawmakers were able to preserve or build upon programs, and where programs were cut or eliminated.
The budget enacted by the Legislature today represents both compromises between the House and Senate proposals, and new solutions to address the challenges caused by updated revenue estimates that project $750 million less in tax revenue than was previously anticipated. As a result, this budget funds most items at the lower of the House and Senate recommendations and a number of items below either the House or Senate recommendations. The budget also relies more on temporary budget-balancing solutions than the versions previously approved by the House and Senate: payments for some MassHealth costs will be shifted from FY 2017 to FY 2018; several accounts are funded significantly below the levels of known costs; and the budget counts on $100 million less in spending than the amount appropriated and that money being used to balance the budget rather than to build reserves. The budget will not make any deposit into the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
While the budget doesn’t make significant progress towards addressing the big challenges our Commonwealth faces, such as rebuilding our transportation infrastructure, making college affordable, or expanding access to high-quality education for all of our children, it does include some small new investments and initiatives. Listed below are descriptions of selected important items in the Legislature’s budget.
The 2016 KIDS COUNT Data Book provides a detailed picture of how children are faring in the United States. In addition to ranking states on overall child well-being, the Data Book ranks states in four domains: Economic Well-Being, Education, Health, and Family and Community.
Had earnings for people at all income levels continued to grow in line with overall income growth as occurred during the three decades before the 1980s, 90 percent of Massachusetts households would have substantially higher incomes today. This fact sheet describes how much lower incomes are as a result of growing disparities, how much larger an income share is held by the top 1 percent of income earners, and how the top 1 percent pay the smallest share of their income in state and local taxes.
This Budget Monitor describes the funding and policy differences between the House and Senate in each major area of the budget, and provides links to in-depth descriptions of programs and issues addressed in each budget proposal.
Most other industrialized countries and four U.S. states use insurance-style programs that replace a portion of workers’ wages to enable time off to address a serious personal or family health condition or to care for a new child. This fact sheet examines evidence on the impact of these programs on families and businesses in California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and (starting in 2018) New York.
Estimates how many Massachusetts residents need and take a leave to cope with a serious illness, pregnancy or a new child. For instance, about 12 percent of Massachusetts workers take a medical or family leave annually, but about a quarter of them take a shorter leave than they need and a slightly larger number of workers who need leave do not take it.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee described a goal of making “investments to build resilient children, families, and communities.” That theme clearly informs the choices throughout their proposed budget, but without new revenues the budget recommends only very modest new investments. The Budget Monitor highlights recommendations in specific areas across the budget, offering comparisons to the proposals from the Governor and the House, as well as historic spending levels.
Many Massachusetts workers, particularly lower-wage workers, are not able to take needed time away from work to address important family needs. While there are health-related and family leave policies that exist, the rules about who is covered, the allowable length of leaves, and how much they replace lost wages, if at all, create barriers that severely limit access. Sometimes a worker’s job does not allow leave, and sometimes a worker cannot afford to take unpaid leave. This brief explains existing health-related leave policies in Massachusetts and how they differ from paid family and medical leave.
The House Budget changes the overall budget picture very little, but proposes a few significant changes for the next budget year. The House changed the bottom line of the budget proposed by the House Ways and Means Committee by less than one fifth of one percent. While many of the House changes were small earmarks for specific local projects, a number of the additions aim to address broader challenges.
This Budget Monitor examines the House Ways and Means Committee’s state budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2017. The HWM proposal is similar overall to the Governor’s and the pattern of recent years. It is largely an austerity budget that reduces spending in some accounts, keeps most essentially at current levels, and contains only very modest new initiatives.