About the Budget Browser

What’s Included in the Budget Browser?

The Budget Browser includes all funding in the state budget from Fiscal Year 2001 to the present. In the current fiscal year, the Browser also tracks the budget debate, from the Governor’s initial budget proposal through the final enacted budget. The enacted budget—the General Appropriation Act (GAA)—includes the Governor’s vetoes and the Legislature’s overrides of those vetoes.

The Browser shows totals for large policy areas or categories (e.g., Health Care), smaller subcategories (e.g., Public Health), or specific line items. The Browser also shows historical amounts adjusted for inflation.

Where does the Budget Browser get its numbers?

The numbers in the Budget Browser come from data from state and legislative officials, as well as MassBudget’s review of legislation.

What is included in the Budget Browser’s funding totals?

The Browser’s totals include all funding to-date as approved by the Legislature. This includes the General Appropriations Act (GAA) as approved and signed at the beginning of the fiscal year, and then all supplemental budget legislation as passed.

If during the course of the year revenues appear to be insufficient to support the budget as approved, the Governor may reduce funding under authority of M.G.L. Chapter 29 Section 9C (so-called 9C cuts.) The Browser includes those reductions.

The Browser also includes what is known as approved “prior appropriation continued” (PAC) amounts. These are amounts that have been allocated in one year, but legislation authorizes the funding to be spent in the following year. The Browser shifts these amounts from the year in which they were initially budgeted into the following year when they are likely to be spent.

Does MassBudget make any changes to official budget numbers?

MassBudget makes certain adjustments to official budget numbers to allow the user to make more accurate across-year comparisons of funding. There are notes explaining these adjustments.

For example, prior to health reform the state made certain expenditures for health providers from special trust funds that were not included in the state’s budget. With health reform, this spending was incorporated into the state’s budgeted health care totals, giving the appearance of a significant increase in health care spending. To give the most accurate across-year picture of health care spending, the Browser includes the off-budget totals in past years that is comparable to current budgeted health care spending.

Why are MassBudget’s budget totals so different from the official budget totals?

In addition to adjustments (see above), MassBudget includes several categories of spending not always included in official budget totals.

“Pre-budget transfers” reflect general spending that is not be subject to appropriation by the Legislature. These are typically portions of taxes or fees automatically directed to fund specific items in the budget. For example, a portion of the sales tax is automatically directed to the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) and this “pre-budget transfer” is included in the Browser.

The FY 2009, FY 2010, and FY 2011 totals also include funding received from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to support the state budget in recovery from the recession.

How is the Budget Browser organized?

MassBudget groups line items into Categories and Subcategories. These groupings do not necessarily follow the state’s organizational structure. The Browser’s structure allows for consistent funding comparisons across years, even if the state’s departmental structure has changed. When possible, there are notes explaining reorganizations affecting line items.

What are “Related Programs”?

Because the Browser accommodates reorganizations of funding (see above), there are instances when funding for different line items are so closely linked that it would be misleading to look at funding for one line item without considering the funding for others. These line items are shown together as stacked bars in the funding chart, and the totals are shown in the funding table. When possible, there are notes explaining why these line items are grouped.

For example, funding for Literacy Programs has shifted among various line items. In some years there are separate line items funding individual programs, and in other years program funding has been consolidated into larger line items. The Browser groups all of these related line items together to allow a more accurate picture of funding for these programs.

Does the Budget Browser track actual state spending?

The budgeted totals in the Browser are not necessarily the same as final spending amounts. If budgeted funding is not spent by the end of the year, it may be either carried forward into the next year (see “PAC” description above) or reverted back to the General Fund. The Browser includes the full appropriated totals, and while these totals do reflect PACs, they do not reflect reversions. If you are interested in actual amounts spent in a given year, please contact MassBudget or take a look at the state’s Open Checkbook.

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