Thursday, March 12, 2015

Suburban Coalition meeting: Lt.Gov. Polito, Sen. Spilka, Sen, Eldridge

I'm at the Suburban Coalition meeting where Lt. Governor Polito, Sen. Spilka (Senate chair of Ways and Means), and Sen. Eldridge are speaking

Polito is asked to talk about the Community Compact Cabinet and the budget
brief update on the past couple of months: quickly turn to fiscal year budget
$750M gap "far more spending than revenues coming in"
communities "relying on state government to keep their promises"
"reform, restructure current budget" (FY15)
reform rate of growth in Mass Health (
"to increase school aid across the board...$20/pupil"
3.4% increase to local aid
restore $1.2M to METCO, $1.5M early ed licensing
fully fund McKinney-Vento (which I'm not sure is true)
Community Compact Cabinet: executive order
relationship with cities and towns "elevated to the executive level"
Commissioner of Local Services established
charge is "we're a community that does things right, but we don't feel like we get recognized for our good behavior"
identify best practices
"engage in conversations with local governments"
also turn to state and say "okay, what are you going to do" to be a better partner
"reward your good behavior with points"
should be a conversation about what is working

Sen Spilka: partnership with cities and towns is very important
"listening to hear what's important to you"
rich and vibrant communities, kids to have an excellent education
committed to working with all of you
"the budget is not where we want it to be, to be blunt"
Massachusetts leads the nation in education, but can always do better
critical skills for 21st century: skills to be able to succeed
Chapter 70 aid hit $20/pupil
also certain cuts that I'm hearing are concern of cuts: $67M in education cuts
"I'm not saying this as a negative: there's only a certain pot of money and we can't go beyond that"
Ways and Means Committee keeps track of every single priority
Chapter 70 and local aid "Way up there"
trying to pull all of that together to help fashion a budget for our next year
"we not be able to accomplish everything we want to accomplish for our next year...but hopefully we see a vision of moving Massachusetts forward"
phasing it in, can't afford to do it all in one year
get in touch with ideas about simplifying, clarifying
Foundation Budget Review Commission: was on Ashland School Committee, "felt that my community was getting a raw deal"
needed advocates together: pull proposals together to a single
looking for the foundation budget to be "adequate, equitable, predictable, and simpler"
springboard to higher office
"at least we did the equitable and predictable" with target share
still don't have adequate
want this to be a very successful commission: hope that SC members have testified
recommendations due the end of June

Sen. Eldridge: calls Spilka a "real policy driven senator"
talk about Commonwealth Conversations: having senators travel the state getting input from elected officials: at almost every stop, they're asking for more investments
have seen the cuts over the past 20 years
"connecting that to how do we pay for the services"
local elected officials have an incredibly important role in advocacy with state legislators
make the connection with revenue: not hearing that enough
"a lot of different ideas out there"
graduated income tax, mandate that a certain percentage going to local aid
doesn't think that tax cuts earlier were effective tax cuts
highlight of some of the decisions we make as legislators
education formula has not kept up to date with costs you've seeing at local districts
special education population, ELL population, health care
didn't take into account that health insurance costs would be so high
what do you mean by fully funding McKinney-Vento?
Polito: wraparound services in person's current area rather than moving them
have bumped transportation up $1M "and that's why I mean by fully funding"
Spilka: federal mandate "but the state has stepped up to the plate the last few years" after the auditor said that they had to...
why cut regional transportation?
Polito: looking to address in supplemental budget in FY15..Spilka corrects that it was a 9C cut, so doesn't require the Legislature "will continue the conversations around that topic"
reasoning behind eliminating kindergarten grant?
Polito: not easy decision, 3% growth over last year based on expected growth of 4.8%
"cannot continue down that path and sustain the essential services of government"
"and it's about priorities"
Eldridge: "all making very difficult decision"
regional transportion (basically) don't cut midyear
how about we slow down on creating new requirements (for school districts)?  if we slow the growth of mandates, we could slow expanded spending
Polito: fresh sense of eyes, new sense of urgency: hiring freeze, work more collaboratively
"really have to watch our taxes"
Medicaid reimbursement going to cities not to the school district, but to the city
Spilka: can look into that again
circuit breaker:will not be helpful to districts if cut
Spilka knows off the top of her head that the administration's budget is 67% funding of circuit breaker; 75% is fully funded.if yo're
rehearsal of savings: once the savings is made, it's done
what can we do to be part of partnershp and move things along?
Polito: can sign up with Community Coalition
about efficiencies and savings and stretching the dollars we have as far as we can
compliance requirements that take up a lot of time and energy
certainly OPEB liability, health care expenses: "bargain contracts responsibly"
Spilka; innovative ideas to help "start here, grow here, thrive here" as tech companies
work with start-up community
Eldridge: would encourage you to tell the story about how they have impacted you
taxes per capita are below average for other states: how do we deal with perception that it's otherwise
Eldridge: public willing to go along with more progressive tax package
discussion about what a more progressive package would look like
do we have a revenue problem or do we have a spending problem? sounds like both
"Taxes buy us important things"
Spilka: "I'm not even sure that most people are aware that your income tax went down...and the state lost $80M just this year"
"we have a lot of needs"
"has to be a connection with need for revenue and the needs of our cities and towns"
fairness and adequacy from Framingham: and I can't actually follow the notes on this; larger point is the "target share" bit is short
if you're a minimum aid district, 0.5% over past five years
ah, this is Walpole, funding at 25% over foundation
"I get what Framingham is asking for, but we've been solidering on"
Spilka: again, we only have a certain amount in the pot
even a hundred million only goes so far; long term, phase in

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