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In The News

Editorial: The real cost of student loans

Daily Hampshire Gazette, October 17, 2018

The cost of a four-year college education at a public institution has tripled over the past three decades, even when adjusted for inflation, according to The College Board. Meanwhile, U.S. Census data shows that mean family income has increased just under 17 percent in the same timeframe. And public funding at public universities has dropped 14.5 percent in Massachusetts since 2001, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. This is a perfect storm for a crisis.

Poverty topic of community action council forum at Mechanics Hall

Worcester Telegram, October 5, 2018

The forum, “Finding a Way Forward: Greater Worcester,” was co-sponsored by the WCAC and the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, which commissioned a new report called, “Obstacles on the Road to Opportunity: Finding a Way Forward Together.” Report author Nancy Wagman, the “Kids Count Director” of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center spoke to the group. Her report notes that programs that help families make ends meet, like the Earned Income Tax Credit, SNAP, fuel assistance, school lunches, Head Start, and Social Security reduced the number of people in Massachusetts living in poverty by almost half, and reduced the number of children living in poverty by more than half. The programs provided resources for approximately 920,000 people in Massachusetts. But public programs alone can’t eliminate poverty, she said. People need jobs with good wages that increase over time.

Forum on Poverty - October 5th, 2018

Worcester News Tonight, October 5, 2018

Mass. total health coverage stalled

Boston Herald, September 25, 2018

About 19,000 fewer Massachusetts residents had health insurance in 2017 than 2016, according to a new report that found the Bay State still leads the nation in health insurance rates but its progress toward total coverage has stalled. The report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center called the 0.3 percent increase in uninsured residents “statistically significant,” and said the number of uninsured Americans rose 0.2 percent over the same time period.

New data shows shifts in income, poverty, insurance levels

WWLP-22 News, September 13, 2018

Median household income in Massachusetts rose by less than 1 percent in 2017, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data, while the state's poverty rate was flat and there was an uptick in people without health insurance. The slight growth in median income "continues a pattern of stagnating wages and incomes among the middle class," said Jeremy Thompson, senior policy analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget).

At Pittsfield’s urging, Berkshire Hills challenges state school funding formula in strong terms

The Berkshire Edge, September 11, 2018

Advocates for overhauling the foundation budget say the funding gap statewide is between $1 billion and $2 billion. Yon said the faulty foundation budget hits poorer districts like Pittsfield especially hard since they do not typically spend much higher than the minimum budget required by the state.

Personnel File

State House News Service, September 5, 2018

NOAH BERGER, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center for the past 15 years, plans to leave the organization Sept. 30 and will be succeeded as president by MARIE-FRANCES RIVERA, currently deputy director of MassBudget. "For 15 years, Noah has been dedicated to building MassBudget into a strong, vibrant, and successful organization," MassBudget Board Chair Carol Kamin said in a statement. "His leadership has had a profound impact on creating important research that helped drive critical public policy debates, especially those that affected the lives of lower- and middle-income Massachusetts residents." Berger, who was a top aide to former Senate President Thomas Birmingham, has not decided on his next job. "After 15 years in one position, it's been fun to think broadly about what I want to do next. I plan to take the time to explore all kinds of opportunities both in Massachusetts and at the national level. I look forward to a next chapter of finding new ways to contribute to making life better for everyone in our communities, particularly those who face the greatest challenges," he said. Rivera, a native of New Bedford who is of Afro-Boricua descent, joined MassBudget in 2014. She earned a master's degree in law and public policy from Northeastern University and has an undergraduate degree in business management from Babson College. At the Hyams Foundation, she helped create a racial justice and public policy grantmaking initiative.

Report sets Anti-Poverty Agenda

Boston Neighborhood Network News, August 15, 2018

Joe Diamond, the executive director of MASSCAP (Mass. Association for Community Action), talks about a new report on the state of poverty and how to overcome barriers to greater self-sufficiency. Interview for BNN News. Aired August 15, 2018.

Baker is officially running for reelection. Here’s a fact-check of his first big campaign speech.

Boston Globe, August 14, 2018

“Every year, except for during recessions, the state spends a little bit more on education. But costs go up, also,” said Noah Berger, president of the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. “The major education debate in the Legislature this year was about whether to close the gap between what we spend on education and what it would take to provide high-quality education in every district,” he said, referring to a bill that ended up dying in a joint House-Senate committee last month.

Monfredo: When Will The Legislators Update The Foundation Budget?

GoLocal Worcester, August 11, 2018

“Massachusetts leads the country in reading by fourth grade — with about half of our kids proficient readers,” said Noah Berger, who helped develop the original funding formula for public schools back in 1993. Berger is now director of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a think tank that has argued for more education funding. "Now it's great that we lead the country. But if half of our kids are being left behind, that could have significant long-term negative effects," Berger said. The bottom line is that we need to build an education system that works for everyone and funding reforms are needed to assist all children in the state to thrive.

Commentary: Inaction On School Funding Will Keep Opportunity Gaps In Place

WBUR, August 8, 2018

A recent report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center found that the formula – known as the foundation budget – underestimates what districts are spending annually on education by at least $2.6 billion.

What You Need To Know About The Failed Education Funding Bills

WBUR, August 6, 2018

“We lead the country in reading by fourth grade — with about half of our kids proficient readers,” said Noah Berger, who helped develop the original funding formula for public schools back in 1993. "Now it's great that we lead the country. But if half of our kids are being left behind, that could have significant long-term negative effects," Berger said.

Clarence Fanto: On stepping to plate, Legislature didn't always score this session

Berkshire Eagle, August 4, 2018

The House and Senate were unable to agree on how to fix outdated school funding formulas after a report that lawmakers have been shortchanging the state's students by nearly $1 billion a year, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

Negotiations Collapse On Education Funding Bill As Legislative Session Ends

WBUR, August 1, 2018

A study published July 18 by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center — a left-leaning think tank — projected that, if the FBRC recommendations were fully implemented over five years, it would drive nearly $900 million in new state aid to districts across Massachusetts.

State Legislature Fails to Pass Education Funding Reform Bill

WBUR, August 1, 2018

Just before midnight, time ran out on a new education funding bill. The bill would have updated the formula the state uses to determine how much money school districts get from the state.

Legislators reach deal on opioids, but not on health care by end of session

Boston Globe, July 31, 2018

The House and Senate also tried unsuccessfully to reach an agreement on how to revamp the state’s school funding formula. The negotiations, which started in a closed-door conference committee last week, had come after a report, released last month, said that Beacon Hill lawmakers have been shortchanging the education of the state’s students by nearly $1 billion a year.

Edwards seeks full funding for special ed

Greenfield Recorder, July 31, 2018

Jonathan Edwards, one of seven Democrats vying for the 1st Franklin District House seat in the Sept. 4 primary, repeated his call this week for full state funding of special education, citing a recent study by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The report concludes that the state has been shortchanging public education by over $1 billion a year for special education as well as $1.5 billion in health insurance benefits. “Over the past 15 years, there has been a significant shift in the balance of state and local funding for our public schools,” the report concludes. “The state is covering a smaller share of total costs and local cities and towns are covering a larger share. Since FY 2002, local support has increased from 59 percent of net school spending to 65 percent. At a time when our state and national economies are strong, when we should be able to make up lost ground in funding our schools, state aid has been stagnant in recent years and is down from historical levels. Chapter 70 aid declined by $378 million (7.2 percent) between FY 2002 and FY 2018 (when you adjust for the inflation factor in state law). In districts that can’t afford to spend additional local resources, budget conditions have grown increasingly strained. Districts that have contributed more from local resources have been able to make progress towards adequate education funding, but it is not clear how sustainable that will be in the next economic downturn.” School districts, it says, have been forced to cut teachers, classroom supplies and technology. “Throughout my 14-plus years on the Whately Selectboard, I’ve advocated for the commonwealth to properly fund special education,” said Edwards. “We now have the data we need to prove what we have known in rural Massachusetts for far too long.

Advocacy Group Produces Study Showing Roadmap to Fix School Funding:Under Five-Year Plan, Revere Could See Up to $18 Million More per Year

Revere Journal, July 28, 2018

Colin Jones of Mass Budget told the Journal that the report – titled ‘Building an Education System that Works for Everyone: Funding Reforms to Help All Our Children Thrive’ – details a plan that would allow the state to increase school aid – specifically to communities like Revere, Everett and Chelsea – by around $200 million per year over a five-year period. That phased approach would lead to restoring what the 1993 education reform law promised, he said. “The big picture is our school funding and the system isn’t really providing the resources that are needed for kids across these Gateway Cities like Revere,” he said. “The formula for funding hasn’t been updated in 25 years and the school districts with the least wealth are facing the worst of it. We looked at the budgets and found that many of these districts are spending 25 percent below what they are supposed to spend on teachers. To make up for it, they have to shift money from other areas or get additional revenues or make cuts to other areas. That’s leading to these big budget gaps.”

Getting it right on boost to school aid

Boston Globe, July 27, 2018

School districts in Massachusetts are underfunded in four areas, a state commission found in 2015. The state’s formula fails to properly account for the cost of health care; of educating children with special education needs; teaching students for whom English is not their first language; and serving the needs of students from low-income families. The commission put forward specific recommendations for closing the gap in two of those four areas. Now, both the House and Senate have passed legislation responding to the commission’s findings, both aimed at boosting state aid to districts. Neither gets it quite right. Broadly speaking, the Legislature ought to be filling all four of the “buckets” — which the House bill fails to do. And it should be ensuring that the money is allocated based on careful analysis of need and that it will be spent wisely by school districts — which the Senate bill fails to do. Neither of them, meanwhile, grapples with where the $1 billion to $2 billion it will cost should come from.

Report: State Lags on Ed-Reform Money

Boston Neighborhood Network News, July 26, 2018

Colin Jones, Senior Policy Analyst with the Mass. Budget and Policy Center, talks about its new report on the lag in state funding needed to help advance education reform in local school districts. Interview for BNN News. Aired July 25, 2018.

Surging costs prompt new approach to school funding

Gloucester Daily Times, July 20, 2018

More than two decades after the state passed a landmark law aimed at narrowing gaps between poor and wealthy school districts, education advocates say education funding is still out of balance. On Beacon Hill, lawmakers are debating changes to the 25-year-old education funding formula that would begin to address those differences, though leaders in the House and Senate remain at odds over increases for schools that teach English language learners and those with large populations of low-income students.

Surging costs prompt new approach to school funding

Gloucester Daily Times, July 20, 2018

More than two decades after the state passed a landmark law aimed at narrowing gaps between poor and wealthy school districts, education advocates say education funding is still out of balance. On Beacon Hill, lawmakers are debating changes to the 25-year-old education funding formula that would begin to address those differences, though leaders in the House and Senate remain at odds over increases for schools that teach English language learners and those with large populations of low-income students.

Under budget pact, business tax breaks will get more scrutiny

Boston Business Journal, July 18, 2018

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center has been among the organizations calling for more scrutiny of corporate tax breaks. Its senior policy analyst, Phineas Baxandall, praised the proposed DOR review on Wednesday. “It certainly provides a regular process to ensure accountability that wasn’t there before,” he said. “This takes us forward in being able to understand how much bang for our buck we’re getting for over $1 billion in spending each year that hasn’t received scrutiny.” A 2016 MassBudget report found that industry-specific tax breaks were costing the state more than $1 billion in annual revenue, nearly triple the total of 20 years prior. The new DOR review process would include tax breaks in addition to those studied in the MassBudget report.

Budget Deal

Bloomberg Baystate Business, July 18, 2018

Noah Berger, President of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, told us about their study which shows the education funding formula in the state is woefully out-of-date. Interview begins around minute 25.

State budget impasse enters third week

The Daily News, July 18, 2018

"The bright side is that we're not seeing the kinds of brinksmanship and efforts to shut down government that we've sometimes seen at the federal level," said Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. "It's important for lawmakers to get the budget done but in a constructive way."

State lawmakers shortchanging Mass. students, report says

WCVB Boston, July 18, 2018

A new education report accuses state lawmakers of shortchanging Massachusetts students at public schools. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says it has the numbers to back up the claim. The group also claims the state has failed to update a 25-year-old formula for financial aid to the more than 300 public school districts in the state. The report says the lack of funding has led districts to layoff teachers, cut school supplies and technology.

State shortchanges public schools by $1 billion a year, report from research group says

Boston Globe, July 18, 2018

Beacon Hill lawmakers have been shortchanging the education of students across Massachusetts by nearly $1 billion a year, causing many school districts to cut teachers, classroom supplies, and technology, according to a report being released Wednesday. The funding shortfall is the consequence of the state’s failure to update its 25-year-old formula for doling out aid to the 322 school districts, which dramatically underestimates what districts are spending annually on education by at least $2.6 billion, according to the report by the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center in Boston.

Massachusetts Playbook

Politico, July 18, 2018

“The budget is taking longer than usual, but there have also been years when it has taken much longer. Since the state has enacted a temporary budget and nobody is threatening to shut down the government, it is not that disruptive,” Mass Budget President Noah Berger said in an email.

Morning Edition interview on education funding reform

WBUR, July 18, 2018

Brief on WBUR's Morning Edition featured an interview with Senior Policy Analyst Colin Jones about his report.

Charter school funding formula is broken

Commonwealth Magazine, July 13, 2018

According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, 14.3 percent of charter school students received special education services in fiscal 2016, while 17.4 percent of students in sending districts received special education services.

House's Trump working group hasn't done much

Commonwealth Magazine, July 6, 2018

However, the Massachusetts House has been largely missing in action when it comes to higher education. The House’s fiscal year 2019 budget contains $1.2 billion in total funding for higher education—a mere 0.1 percent over last year’s spending, itself a 14 percent cut since fiscal year 2001 in real terms. Viewed on a per-student basis, these cuts look even worse: we spend almost a third less per student than we did at the turn of the century.

State lands tax windfall: $1.2 billion more than expected

Boston Globe, July 6, 2018

Noah Berger, president of the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said it would not be prudent for the state to spend the extra money from last fiscal year in the current one. Rather, he said, it should be spent on one-time capital expenses like roads or schools, or put away in the state’s savings account. “The big picture is: Most of this is probably temporary,” he said. “It doesn’t really change long-term challenges like making higher education affordable or rebuilding our transportation systems.”

On the front lines: A look at mental health challenges

The Sun Chronicle, July 6, 2018

The Department of Mental Health’s budget for fiscal year 2019 is about $870 million, up from $772 million last year. The 12 percent increase is significant and is aimed at improving care, according to Budget Monitor, published by Mass Budget and Policy Center. About $84 million will go to “create a new model of service delivery for adults,” authors wrote. “This model aims to provide more coordinated, standardized, and consistent treatment that would be better aligned with health care systems. It would seek to provide more comprehensive care, particularly for people with co-occurring substance use disorders.”

Quincy is changing, but poverty hangs on

Boston Globe, June 29, 2018

Poverty levels were even higher in other Greater Boston cities cited in the study, “Obstacles on the Road to Opportunity: Finding a Way Forward,” conducted by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. South of Boston, Brockton’s poverty level stood at 18 percent, according to data analyzed from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey. To the west, Framingham had a rate of 11 percent. Nine cities north of Boston had poverty levels that exceeded 10 percent: Chelsea (19 percent), Everett (15 percent), Lawrence (26 percent), Lowell (22 percent), Lynn (20 percent), Malden (15 percent), Revere (13 percent), Salem (15 percent), and Somerville (13 percent). MASSCAP commissioned the study to gauge the effectiveness of antipoverty programs such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, fuel assistance, and food stamps.The report concluded that the programs reduce the number of people living in poverty in Massachusetts by almost half, and the poverty rate among children by more than half.

$15 Minimum Wage, Required Paid Leave Are Coming to Mass., After Gov. Baker Signs 'Grand Bargain'

WBUR, June 28, 2018

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which advocates for higher minimum wages, has estimated that a quarter of the Massachusetts workforce — about 840,000 workers — would see raises as a result of a $15 minimum wage by 2023.

Massachusetts governor to sign bill on $15 minimum wage

True Viral News, June 28, 2018

An estimated 840,000 workers in the state will see their wages rise, according to The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

Gov. Charlie Baker will sign minimum wage 'grand bargain'

MassLive, June 27, 2018

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center estimates 840,000 workers will see their wages rise by 2023 due to the wage increase.

Report: Fed funds for children's programs at risk in 2020 Census

State House News Service, June 27, 2018

Massachusetts ranks second in the nation on child well-being, but government programs that contribute to that status are at risk if the state does not secure an accurate count in the 2020 Census, according to a local assessment of a new national report. Nearly 30 percent of the state's youngest children live in neighborhoods where the Census has had difficulty securing an accurate count, and an undercount could undercut federal funding for programs that serve children and are rooted in population-based formulas, the Mass Budget and Policy Center said. In the Annie E. Casey Foundation's 2018 KIDS COUNT report, Massachusetts ranks first in the nation in health and ensuring children have insurance, second in education based on math and reading data, and 11th in economic well-being. According to the report, the share of children living in poverty in Massachusetts is 14 percent, the same as in 2010, and the number of three-year-old and four-year-old children attending school has stayed the same since 2009-2011. In fiscal 2015, the federal government contributed $281 million toward special education services in Massachusetts, $147 million for the Head Start program and $76.3 million to programs that make child care affordable for working families, according to MassBudget. "If we don't count all children in Massachusetts, we may not get a full picture of their needs," Nancy Wagman, director of KIDS COUNT Massachusetts, said in a statement released by MassBudget. "This could affect the estimates for resources that go to classrooms, that provide health care, and that support other essential programs."

Advocates won’t pursue minimum wage referendum if Baker signs ‘grand bargain’

Boston Globe, June 26, 2018

The left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 would raise the wages of about 840,000 workers.

What does the Supreme Court's Wayfair decision on online sales taxes mean for Massachusetts?

MassLive, June 21, 2018

Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a liberal-leaning think tank, said the likely result of the ruling is that Massachusetts' existing rules will take full effect, without the threat of a legal challenge, and more online retailers will begin collecting sales tax in Massachusetts. "The decision is good for Massachusetts and good for states across the country both because it could help to level the playing field between in-state retailers and online retailers and because it will provide revenue for important services in the state, like education and local aid," Berger said.

Current Issues in Massachusetts Taxation Policy: An Interview with Noah Berger of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and Eileen McAnneny of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Association

MassBenchmarks Journal, June 20, 2018

A MassBenchmarks interview explores current tax policy issues, including current trends in the flow of revenues and increasing costs associated with healthcare, pension, and debt service spending. It also examines the viability of a proposed income surtax on high-income earners, and calls for greater efficiency in state government through greater transparency in the evaluation of spending priorities and trade-offs.

Tuition hikes in offing at UMass Amherst

Daily Hampshire Gazette, June 20, 2018

But, with state funding for UMass remaining largely stagnant while the number of students has grown, that financial gap is getting plugged with steps like tuition hikes and out-of-state enrollment. The state’s public higher education spending has dipped 14 percent since 2001 adjusted for inflation, according to statistics from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

Bloomberg Baystate Business: Millionaires Tax

Bloomberg Baystate Business, June 18, 2018

Noah Berger of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, who favored the tax, talked about how shortfalls in transportation and education funding still exist despite the court’s ruling, and would be impacted heavily if voters lowered the state sales tax without new revenue.

Major funding boost likely for alcohol industry oversight agency

State House News Service, June 14, 2018

According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the ABCC's budget has dipped from $2.79 million in fiscal 2009 to $2.49 million this fiscal year.

Despite booming economy, poverty persists on South Shore

The Patriot Ledger, June 12, 2018

“Far too many people are working and making just enough to cover the basics but not enough to thrive,” Kory Eng, chief operating officer for Quincy Community Action Programs, said at a panel discussion Tuesday based on the a new report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. “We need public policy that addresses that.” The report, commissioned by Massachusetts Association for Community Action, points to several barriers behind the state’s stubborn poverty rate and highlights great geographic disparities in wealth across Massachusetts and the South Shore. Quincy’s poverty rate, for example, is among the lowest in Massachusetts’ larger cities at 10.2 percent, but double of that of Milton, its next-door neighbor. Poverty rates have been rising in both towns, and in Braintree and Weymouth, since 2000. MassBudget tied today’s persistent poverty directly to those low wages. In Massachusetts, a full-time worker making the state minimum wage of $11 an hour will make about $22,000 a year, which is bellow the federal poverty level for a family of four. Across the board, wages for all but the wealthiest Americans have remained flat on average even as the economy has come roaring back from the Great Recession of the late 2000s. “The economy is growing but now all the prosperity, all that wealth that comes with a booming economy, isn’t going into the pockets of workers,” said MassBudget’s Nancy Wagman.

Special Education Costs Force Some Districts To Cut Elsewhere

wGBH, June 9, 2018

The gap between what the state reimburses districts for special education and what it actually costs amounts to $1.2 billion, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. Districts with strong tax bases can make up the difference on their own, but less wealthy districts have had to cut programs, said Noah Berger, the center's president. “We see that districts are spending less on teachers, for example, which means there are fewer teachers,” Berger added. “So that means either larger class sizes or less specialists like art and music, and that has a direct effect on the quality of education that kids can receive.”

Facing July 1 deadline, negotiators embark on state budget talks

Sentinel & Enterprise, June 8, 2018

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center on Wendesday flagged differences between the branches on health care, housing and education, noting that the House proposed larger investments in early education and care, while the Senate proposed greater funding for K-12 schools. The House also added $5 million for a new program to help homeless individuals move into housing, and the Senate increased Registry of Deeds fees to bolster the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund, which supports affordable housing, open space and historic preservation. On health care, the Senate included language allowing the state to negotiate drug prices directly with manufacturers, a proposal MassBudget said is similar to one introduced by Gov. Charlie Baker. The House, meanwhile, included more funding for pediatric hospitals, adult foster care, and adult day health rates than the Senate, according to MassBudget.

As I See It: A way forward on a road to opportunity

Worcester Telegram, June 8, 2018

Early last month, Worcester Community Action Council, Inc. joined our Community Action partners from throughout the Commonwealth, the Mass Budget Office, United Way organizations and funders to release a new report, “Obstacles on the Road to Opportunity: Finding a Way Forward.” The report estimates that anti-poverty programs have reduced the number of people in Massachusetts who live below the poverty level - $22,000 for a family of four - by more than half. That progress, however, will be undone by the recent federal tax cut and President Trump’s budget projections. These combined actions would cut non-defense discretionary funding, some of which supports anti-poverty programs, from $579 billion today to $306 billion in 2028.

Budget Analysts Flag Housing, Education, Health Care differences

State House News Service, June 6, 2018

State budget negotiators have their work cut out for them as they try this month to reconcile House and Senate spending plans, particularly around education, housing and health care, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. In a preview of the conference committee, MassBudget said the two budgets "reflect similar values" but are both "constrained by limited revenue and are not able to make progress in a number of important areas." Around education, the House proposed about $8.22 billion in spending and the Senate proposed $8.26 billion. But the House focused on early education, while the Senate put more into funding for K-12 public schools. The conference committee, which will hold its first meeting on Thursday, must also decide what to do with the Senate provision requiring a college to give 120 days notice to the Board of Higher Education if it plans to shut down. Negotiators will also have to hash out housing spending and policy difference. The House proposes more funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program than the Senate, but approved "significantly less" than the Senate for the emergency assistance program that provides shelter for low-income homeless families, MassBudget said. The Senate's plan to increase Registry of Deeds fees to fund the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund will also have to be addressed. Health care spending accounts for almost half of the budget and MassBudget said conferees will have to debate a Senate plan to allow the state to negotiate drug prices directly with manufacturers to obtain rebates and must iron out differences between the House's $20.69 billion in health care spending and the Senate's $20.60 billion. Reps. Jeffrey Sanchez, Stephen Kulik and Todd Smola will meet Thursday morning with Sens. Karen Spilka, Joan Lovely and Vinny deMacedo to begin hashing out the compromise fiscal year 2019 budget. The House passed a $41.065 billion fiscal year 2019 budget and the Senate adopted a $41.49 billion spending plan for FY 2019. - Colin A. Young/SHNS

Fighting poverty as federal aid dwindles

Eagle-Tribune, June 5, 2018

What happens in Washington doesn't stay in Washington,” said Nancy Wagman, the author of a 75-page report she presented at the conference that details how Johnson's War on Poverty cut the national poverty rate from 22 percent to 13 percent within a decade, then stalled in the mid-1970s as the federal minimum wage eroded against inflation and union membership sank. But the greatest threat to the federal programs created by the War on Poverty – including Food Stamps, the Head Start day care program, the LIHEAP heating subsidies and the Earned Income Tax Credit – will come with the tax cut that Congress passed and Trump signed earlier this year, Wagman told the conference. Wagman, a director at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a nonpartisan think tank on economic policy issues, wrote the report for the coalition of community action councils, called the Massachusetts Association for Community Action.

Should Massachusetts drop tuition and fees for in-state students at its public colleges and universities?

Boston Globe, June 1, 2018

Thousands of students are unable to afford college and most who graduate are saddled with very high debt. Since fiscal 2001, cuts to public higher education in our state have led to massive growth in average debt for graduates, according to the nonprofit Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center’s report released earlier this year. That debt increased by 77 percent from 2004 to 2016, a rate of growth that was higher than in every state but Delaware. This gives Massachusetts the dubious distinction of having gone from the second-lowest amount of average loan debt in 2004 to having the 10th-highest in 2016. In fact, the average debt among public university graduates almost equals that of private colleges and university graduates in Massachusetts. The truth is Massachusetts has fallen to 45th in what we spend on higher education as a share of our economy.

Finding relief from student debt for human services workers

The Provider, June 1, 2018

Report on page 5 of publication. As I recently wrote about for the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center in Educated and Encumbered, Massachusetts has cut funding for public higher education by 32 percent per student since 2001. Public college and university campuses in Massachusetts depend primarily on two sources for revenue: the state budget, and tuition and fees. When one goes down, the other must go up, and that is exactly what happened: Average in-state tuition and fees across all university campuses have more than doubled since 2001. And that’s after adjusting for inflation. At the same time, we have cut scholarship funding, as well. In 1988, MASSGrant – the state’s largest needbased grant aid program – covered, on average, 88 percent of mandatory tuition and fees. By 2013, MASSGrant covered just 8 percent of these costs. As a result of state budget cuts, tuition and fee increases, and the plummeting purchasing power of need-based aid, the costs of public higher education now fall squarely on the shoulders of Massachusetts students and their families. In 2001, tuition and fees accounted for less than one-third of campus revenues. Today, they constitute more than half of community college revenues. At the four-year University of Massachusetts and state university campuses, the share is around 60 percent.

WBUR Poll: Ballot Questions On Sales Tax Rollback And 'Millionaire's Tax' Maintain High Support

WBUR, May 31, 2018

Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said the debate on the sales tax right now focuses on tax cuts, and not on the budget implications. "If you have a tax cut that costs over a billion dollars, that means that there's less money for local aid, for parks, for education, for health care," he said, "and that part of the debate really hasn't come up." Berger wants greater focus to be on how the proposed sales tax reduction may impact "local communities and services that people count on."

Study shows UMass admissions less competitive for out-of-state students

The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, May 31, 2018

“Today, the state appropriation accounts for only 21 percent of UMass Amherst’s operating budget. Adjusted for inflation, the Commonwealth’s spending on public higher education has declined by 14 percent since 2001, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. In this same period, because the number of students has grown, the per-student spending has decreased by 31 percent,” Blaguszewski said in a MassLive article,

Tuition from out-of-state students needed to fund UMass due to 'stagnated' state funding, school officials say

MassLive, May 30, 2018

"The university's enrollment of out-of-state students has increased as state support for UMass has stagnated," UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski said. "Today, the state appropriation accounts for only 21 percent of UMass Amherst's operating budget. Adjusted for inflation, the Commonwealth's spending on public higher education has declined by 14 percent since 2001, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. In this same period, because the number of students has grown, the per-student spending has decreased by 31 percent."

GUEST VIEW: Sales tax cut would threaten already-struggling public college system

South Coast Today, May 29, 2018

Massachusetts has cut state higher education funding by almost one-third per student since 2001, raising tuition and fee costs by thousands of dollars and reducing access to public higher education. This has led to a massive increase in student debt burdens for students and their families — student debt has risen faster here than in 49 other states since 2001, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

Budgets, Markets, Taxes

Bloomberg Baystate Business, May 29, 2018

Noah Berger, President of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center was with us to counter yesterday’s Pioneer Institute rebuttal of their new study on the proposed millionaire’s tax.

UMass Amherst Holds Higher Admission Standards For In-State Students, Study Finds

WBUR, May 29, 2018

Adjusted for inflation, the Commonwealth’s spending on public higher education has declined by 14 percent since 2001, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. In this same period, because the number of students has grown, the per-student spending has decreased by 31 percent. Massachusetts now ranks 43rd in spending on public higher education as a percentage of personal income.

At UMass Amherst, admission easier for out-of-state applicants

Commonwealth Magazine, May 29, 2018

The state’s public higher education institutions have faced a double squeeze in recent years: declining state aid amidst increasing enrollments. Not only has state aid to public higher education declined, as the Mass. Budget and Policy Center reported in March, because enrollment in the state system has increased, the cuts led to an even larger 32 percent decrease in funding per enrolled in-state student during that time. “If those budget pressures are also making it harder for qualified students from Massachusetts to get into UMass, that’s an additional reason to make sure our higher education system is properly funded,” said Noah Berger, president of the liberal-leaning think tank. He said the cuts – and accompanying increases in tuition and fees at UMass – have come in the wake of a series of large tax cuts enacted in 2001.

Panel analyzes ways to increase opportunities through wages and social programs

Spare Change News, May 25, 2018

A report outlining the effects of social programs and removing barriers for low-income individuals and families was discussed at a recent panel discussion hosted by Action for Boston Community Development in Dorchester. The “Obstacles on the Road to Opportunity” report, sponsored by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and Massachusetts Association for Community Action, concluded that wage growth and reinvestment in social programs could help close the inequality gap.

The Mount Ida Rorschach test

Commonwealth Magazine, May 25, 2018

A report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center calculates that, adjusted for inflation, the Commonwealth’s spending on public higher education is 14 percent lower than it was in 2001. Because the number of students has grown, the per student spending has decreased by 31 percent. This means that the cost of supporting public institutions has shifted significantly from the state to the enrolled students. They pay tuition and fees totaling 61 percent of the institutional budgets, more than double the previous level.

Including Teenage Voices in the Fight to Raise the Minimum Wage in Massachusetts, May 21, 2018

A study released by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center found that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2022 would give 89 percent of working teens a raise. This increase would help tens of thousands of families achieve the financial stability that presently is out of reach. Also, Mass. Budget president Noah Berger emphasized in WBUR late last year that, “it’s important to recognize that in low-income families, the wages teens earn can be important,” Berger said, “and if they’re paid a little more it gives them greater capacity to help their family to make ends meet, to pay for food or rent or other basic necessities.”

Federal Cuts Could Forces Thousands in Mass. to go Hungry

The Boston Pilot, May 18, 2018

This news comes on the heels of new research done by The Massachusetts Association for Community Action, or MASSCAP, and MassBudget, that used the census' new metric for poverty levels, SPM. The new metric accounts for household costs covering basic needs like food and shelter, and also adjusts for differences in costs of living nationwide. Because Massachusetts is one of just 13 states where SPM rates are higher than traditional poverty rates, MASSCAP and MassBudget's report shed light on a startling truth. Their research showed that cuts to programs like SNAP would double poverty levels statewide.

Report Shows Head Start And School Lunch Programs Help Reduce Poverty Among Massachusetts Children

WGBH, May 14, 2018

A new report says that while public programs such as food stamps and Head Start help many families make ends meet, one in three children in Massachusetts are living in poverty. The 75-page report, commissioned by the Massachusetts Association for Community Action (MASSCAP), was released by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center on Wednesday. It outlines the many obstacles facing families around the state.

State ballot questions discussed

Quaboag Current, May 11, 2018

Jeremy Thompson, a senior policy analyst from MassBudget, touched upon three major proposals that could make their way to the ballot in November — the Fair Share Amendment, the Paid Family and Medical Leave and the $15 Minimum Wage Increase. Thompson said the Fair Share Amendment looks to implement an additional tax of 4 percent to people making over $1 million dollars in their annual income, with the 4 percent only applying to the portion that exceeds $1 million. "Signature gathering and legislative processes are being done for the Fair Share Amendment," said Thompson. "It will appear on the ballot if the Supreme Judicial Court rules that it can, in a case now pending."

Low-income tax credit expansion part of Senate’s $41.4B budget

Greenfield Recorder, May 10, 2018

“I think at the basic values level it’s very similar to the House budget, there’s a focus on expanding opportunity, particularly for kids. There are trade-offs; the Senate put some more money into K-12 public schools, the House put more money into early education,” Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said. “They’re both working very much within the same tight revenue box, so if you do a little bit more on one thing it means doing a little less in the other.”

Senate unveils $41 billion state budget proposal

Boston Globe, May 10, 2018

It is “a tax credit that really helps low-income working families to be able to make ends meet,” said Noah Berger, president of the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. “There’s a lot of evidence that when you raise the incomes of those low-wage working families, it has long-term positive effects on their kids: They do better in school; there are better health outcomes.”

Massachusetts Senate releases $41.42 billion budget proposal for FY19 with focus on education

MassLive, May 10, 2018

Noah Berger, president of the liberal-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said both the House and Senate budget proposals are "very similar" and are "working within the same tight revenue box." For example, while the Senate puts more money into K-12 public schools, the House puts more money into early education. "Doing a little bit more on one thing means doing a little bit less on the other," Berger said.

Small Changes In Funding Formula Could Drive Millions More Dollars Into Mass. Schools

WBUR, May 10, 2018

For example, the current budget assumes that 15 percent of students need special education services a quarter of the time — so it adds a flat 3.75 percent to every district's expected costs. The bill changes the assumption minutely based on actual enrollment: If on average 16 percent of students need special education, that statewide budgetary bump must grow to 4 percent. These may sound like small changes, but taken together, they could amount to raising the sticker price of public education in Massachusetts by as much as $2 billion by the end of the bill's implementation, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank. That would put the state on the hook for sending a lot more aid to less affluent cities with smaller tax bases.

Mass. poverty levels halved by assistance programs, says report

Boston Business Journal, May 9, 2018

“The new measure of poverty that the census has developed looks more carefully at the actual cost of making ends meet, which is higher in Massachusetts than other states because housing costs are higher,” MassBudget president Noah Berger said in a phone interview. “The traditional measure of poverty just looks at cash income and a threshold that was set in the 1960s.” Therefore, Massachusetts is among only 13 states whose SPM rates are higher than traditional poverty rates, despite the fact that over 900,000 of its residents have received assistance from public benefit programs since 1964. The report also ranked cities where half, or more than half, of household income goes to rent alone. Springfield ranked first, where more than one-third of renters spent half, or more than half, of income solely on rent. Lawrence ranked second, followed by Lowell.

Birmingham: Let’s not squander our hard-won gains in education

MetroWest Daily News, May 8, 2018

When adjusted for inflation, our current education appropriation is about the same as it was in 2002. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center has concluded that almost all low-income school districts now lack the resources needed to provide the caliber of education envisioned in the foundation budget.

Baker Raps Dems On Tax Hikes, But Stays Mum On 'Millionaire's Tax'

WBUR, May 7, 2018

According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, seven states and the District of Columbia have statewide tax rates of approximately 9 percent or more for their highest income tax bracket. In a report released last month, MassBudget concluded that California and New York, the two states with the highest "millionaire taxes," have seen the greatest gains in the number of millionaire taxpayers since 2010. "The eight millionaire-tax states together, which contained 36 percent of U.S. taxpayers, saw 37 percent of the total increase in the number of million-dollar incomes across the country," MassBudget reported. "Texas and Florida, two states with no income tax and the nation’s second and third most taxpayers, also saw large numbers of new millionaires."

For these overachievers, tuition is their latest obstacle

Boston Globe, May 5, 2018

Massachusetts cut its funding for higher education so much between 2001 and 2016 -- even as enrollment climbed -- that state schools and community colleges here have had to impose some of the highest tuition increases in the nation, according to a report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. Worse, state university students in Massachusetts are more likely to graduate with debt than their counterparts at private colleges, as they struggle to pay not just for tuition, but also for food, housing, and child care.

Streamlining financial aid

Boston Herald, May 4, 2018

“It is a certainly positive step for the board to look at changes to improve the system,” said Noah Berger, an analyst for the Mass. Budget and Policy Center. “It ultimately won’t solve the bigger problem that due to state funding cuts the cost of higher education has gone up dramatically. It has led to students taking on more and more debt.”

Senate agrees to car rental fee to fund police training

Sentinel & Enterprise, May 1, 2018

According to data from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the training committee account's funding has varied over the past decade, ranging from a recession-era $1.4 million in fiscal year 2009 to $5.1 million in fiscal 2016.

Why Does Our Democratic Legislature Largely Adopt Our Governor’s Budget?

Blue Mass Group, May 1, 2018

Let’s turn to the recent analysis of the House Ways & Means budget from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. It begins, “The House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget proposal largely aligns with the Governor’s proposal.” Mass Budget also outlines a few modest improvements the House made: Early Education and Care. The HWM budget provides $20.0 million for Center-Based Child Care Rate Increases to improve early education quality by increasing the rates paid by the state to child care providers. That funding should aid in increasing salary, benefits, and professional development for early educators. The HWM Committee also proposes $8.5 million for a new initiative focused on professional development for early educators facilitated by Massachusetts community colleges. K-12 Education. This budget provides $33.5 million more in Chapter 70 Aid (and related reserves) than the Governor proposed. In addition, it funds grant programs at $20.8 million more than the Governor recommended. This includes an added $9.5 million for charter school reimbursements and $8.9 million more for special education costs. Housing. This budget proposal would increase funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) to $100.0 million, which is $7.3 million more than FY 2018. MRVP provides housing vouchers to help low-income families, including those living in emergency assistance shelters, secure housing.

Senior policy analyst looks at wages, leave, taxes

The Citizen Chronicle, April 29, 2018

Jeremy Thompson, senior policy analyst for the independent Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, will present an overview of these initiatives and their impact on families, businesses and the state budget. The Fair Share Amendment seeks to create an additional tax of 4% on annual income above $1 million and invest those funds in education and infrastructure. The $15 minimum wage would be implemented in increments of $1 per year over the next four years to achieve a minimum wage of $15 an hour in Massachusetts by 2022. The paid family and medical leave initiative would provide employees and self-employed individuals (who elect coverage) with 16 weeks of paid family leave or 26 weeks of paid medical leave per year up to 90 percent of an employee’s average weekly wages or $1,000 a week (whichever is less). Finally, the sales tax rollback would decrease state sales tax from 6.25% to 5% and designate a tax-free weekend each August.

Students and families need real investment in public colleges (Guest viewpoint)

MassLive, April 23, 2018

According to a recent MassBudget report, per pupil state support for public higher education and funding for student scholarships were both cut by one third, in inflation-adjusted dollars, between 2001 and 2016. The result? The cost of attending public colleges and universities in Massachusetts has more than doubled. The average debt for these students has grown faster than every state but Delaware. Students at a state university leave with an average debt of $30,250, almost as much as private college graduates.

House delivers small bit of good financial news for local schools

The Sun Chronicle, April 20, 2018

The long-term solution to the widespread school funding problems, she said, is to rewrite the formula for distributing Chapter 70 aid, but that could cost $1 billion. In the meantime, she said, the Legislature will only be able to “tweak” the formula a little at a time. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said the House committee did make a small change to the formula to better account for the increase in cost of health insurance for school employees.

Degrees of separation: How the wealthiest colleges in Mass. discount the cost of a diploma

Boston Business Journal, April 19, 2018

According to a recent report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, state spending on higher education has fallen by 14 percent since 2001. During the same period, state universities, community colleges and UMass campuses have raised tuition and fees. That, in turn, has forced students and families to borrow more, the report found. Talk about sticker shock.

Will the millionaires’ tax spur an exodus of the rich from Massachusetts?

Boston Business Journal, April 17, 2018

Of the 10 states with the highest percentage of million-dollar earners in 2015, four — the District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey and California — had high income taxes for the wealthy, according to MassBudget. Each of the four has statewide taxes of about 9 percent or more on their highest income tax bracket, while the Massachusetts proposal would raise the tax on each dollar earned above $1 million from just over 5 percent to just over 9 percent. Furthermore, California and New York grew more million-dollar earners than any other state from 2010 to 2015, according to MassBudget.

Baker signs criminal justice overhaul bill into law

The Daily Free Press, April 17, 2018

The criminal justice reform legislation notably removes several mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses, a policy that has caused a significant increase in the Massachusetts prison population over the past few decades. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the number of incarcerated nonviolent drug offenders increased tenfold from 1980 to 2010.

Bloomberg Baystate Business: Taxes, Taxes, Taxes

Bloomberg Baystate Business, April 17, 2018

(Segment begins at minute 44:22.) Noah Berger of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center talked about their new study that minimizes the impact of a special tax on millionaires which is on the ballot in November.

House Budget Nears $41B, Seeks Review of State Police

Associated Press, April 11, 2018

Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, credited the House budget plan with providing a "modest" increase in funding for public schools and early education. But he expressed disappointment the spending plan did not go beyond the approximately 1 percent increase for public higher education offered by Baker.

Massachusetts state budget faces uncertainty over 2018 ballot questions

MassLive, April 11, 2018

Noah Berger, president of the liberal-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said if the ballot question reducing the sales tax were to pass without the increase in the income tax, "It would dramatically change both the ability of any progress in this budget to become real and would probably roll back significantly funding in important areas. It's hard to sustain a $600 million hit in the first year and $1.2 billion in future years without having a direct effect on education, on health care and on local aid," Berger said.

House budget calls for State Police oversight and rebuffs Baker’s Medicaid plan

Boston Globe, April 11, 2018

Noah Berger, president of the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said the current deposit is “less than we’d like it to be,” but he said he’s hopeful that lawmakers may have more cash to funnel into its savings account by year’s end.

Hollywood haves and have-nots

Commonwealth Magazine, April 10, 2018

Like many analysts who follow public financial issues, Noah Berger, the president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, is not a fan of the film tax credit. He noted a production that pays a Hollywood actor $10 million on a film shoot in Massachusetts will receive a tax credit worth $2.5 million, but Massachusetts would see almost no gain because nearly all of the money would accompany the actor when he or she returns home. He also says the Massachusetts tax credit can’t be targeted to parts of the state that need economic help because productions receive the same size tax credit whether they film in Boston or Holyoke. “In general, it’s not an effective way to put money into the economy,” he says.

UMass unions take contract demands to trustees

Valley Advocate, April 10, 2018

Weinbaum compared K-12 public schools in those states to public higher education in Massachusetts. A study released in March by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center shows that Massachusetts has cut higher education funding by 14 percent since 2001, and that higher education spending per student has been cut by 32 percent in the same amount of time. In the meantime admissions fees more than doubled from 2000-2001 and 2015-2016, which is a rate of increase that is larger than two-third of all other states, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center report. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center report shows that students across the public higher education spectrum pay over half of the total higher education costs, compared to only paying one-third of those costs in the 2001 fiscal year. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy study reported that higher education spending per student was cut by 32 percent since the 2001 fiscal year.

Massachusetts considering bill to increase minimum wage to $15 per hour

Financial Regulation News, April 5, 2018

A report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said the bill would raise the wages of roughly 943,000 workers, or 29 percent of the state’s workforce, 56 percent of which are women.

Worcester forum examines ups, downs of minimum wage hike

Worcester Telegram, March 27, 2018

Moderator Jeremy Thompson, senior policy analyst at the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, began by highlighting statistics on the impact of a minimum wage increase. While one might think that a minimum wage increase would mostly benefit teenagers working part-time summer jobs, 90 percent of the 1 million workers who would receive a raise are adults and 55 percent work full-time, Mr. Thompson reported. One in three workers in Central Massachusetts will see increased wages either directly or indirectly through adjustments in pay scales — including 41 percent of workers in Worcester, Mr. Thompson said. Mr. Thompson said this would translate into higher quality of life for families. Businesses would see higher worker productivity and morale and lower turnover and training costs, he added.

Greater Boston community gathers in support of $15 minimum wage, paid leave

The Daily Free Press, March 21, 2018

In Boston, the wages for 110,448 workers would rise if the minimum wage is increased to $15 an hour, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. Nearly all Massachusetts workers would be eligible for paid family and medical leave under Raise Up MA’s proposal, according to the release. Nika Elugardo, 44, a candidate for state representative this year, said it is vital that Massachusetts legislators back these problems.

A statistical picture of how the Earned Income Tax Credit helps families

Eye on Early Education, March 20, 2018

As families with low incomes work hard to make ends meet — paying for food, housing, and child care — one popular, bipartisan policy that helps is the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The credit reduces families’ tax bill or gives families a refund so that they have more cash. It’s an approach that has had a positive local impact, according to a brief from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget), “The Reach of the Massachusetts State Earned Income Tax Credit, by City and Town.” “More than 400,000 tax filers claim the Massachusetts state EITC each year. In Fiscal Year 2019, the state’s Administration currently estimates tax filers will receive a total of $214.1 million in credits,” MassBudget explains.

Struggling Brockton schools may sue the state

Boston Globe, March 19, 2018

The funding formula, known as the foundation budget, is supposed to promote equity by attempting to calculate the cost of an adequate education in each school system based on the students they serve. The formula then aims to account for a community’s ability to pay. But the formula has failed to keep pace with escalating costs, according to a report by the legislative commission. While the report did not include a price tag, another study in 2011 by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-learning think tank, found the foundation budget calculations were off by more than $2 billion.

An investment in knowledge

Cape Cod Times, March 17, 2018

It’s no surprise that the cost of a four-year degree is rising to the point that millions of Americans cannot afford to attend college, or do so by making the risky decision to take out loans that will take years to pay off. To cope with such costs, students have taken on a higher debt load, so much so, according to a recent report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, that in 2016 graduates of UMass and other state universities averaged about $30,350 in debt, a bit less than the $32,355 for graduates of private Bay State colleges and universities. In his second State of the University address, UMass President Marty Meehan recently discussed the challenges families face trying to scrape up the funds to send their children to college.

Lights, Camera, Action! Breaking Down The Mass. Film Tax Credit

WGBH, March 16, 2018

MassBudget President Noah Berger was one of the guests on Under the Radar discussing the film tax credits in Massachusetts. “Black Panther.” "The Blind Side." “The Walking Dead.” These are just some of the film and television shows filmed in Georgia. The Peach State has found enormous success in the film and TV production industry, with creative types enticed by the state’s film tax credit. Meanwhile, the tax credit remains a contentious issue in Massachusetts. How has Georgia made the film tax credits a winning business model, and can Massachusetts do the same?

Editorial: UMass puts proper emphasis on affordability

Amherst Bulletin, March 8, 2018

University of Massachusetts President Martin T. Meehan correctly emphasized affordability in his second annual “state of the university” address Monday. Meehan’s remarks echoed a report released last week by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a Boston-based group advocating for more state spending on higher education. The report states: “Deep cuts in state support for public higher education have contributed to some of the highest tuition and fees increases in the nation from 2001 to 2016, (which) doubled the share of postsecondary education costs borne by students and their families, from about 30 percent to around 60 percent.” As a result, according to the report, students attending public four-year colleges and universities in Massachusetts are forced to borrow more, and between 2004 and 2016 their average student loan debt increased by 77 percent, more than any other state except Delaware.

Time for action on pay equity for women

Commonwealth Magazine, March 8, 2018

Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers in Massachusetts are women. Among all workers who would get a raise from a $15 minimum wage, including those whose pay would likely increase because they make slightly over $15 now, 56 percent are women. Nationally, more than 37 percent of women of color would receive a raise if the minimum wage rose to $15.

UMass president calls for greater affordability for students

Boston Globe, March 6, 2018

University of Massachusetts president Martin T. Meehan on Monday pledged to work to make college degrees more affordable in an era when the cost of even a public education is becoming increasingly out of reach for students. According to the report on affordability that was released last week, between 2004 and 2016 the average student-loan debt for graduates of Massachusetts’ public four-year colleges and universities rose by 77 percent, faster than in any other state in the country except Delaware. The report was prepared by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning research group that advocates for more state funding for higher education. Deep cuts in scholarships, reductions in state funding, and increases in tuition and fees have shifted more of the burden of paying for college to students and families, the report said. It found that graduates of the University of Massachusetts system and state universities leave with about $30,250 in debt, just 7 percent less than the $32,355 of debt held by graduates of private colleges.

Report: Student Debt Rising At Massachusetts Public Universities

WAMC Northeast Public Radio, March 5, 2018

A recent report from a left-leaning research center said student loan debt has been growing rapidly for graduates of Massachusetts’ four-year public colleges and universities. The report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says funding for public higher education in recent years has shifted from the state budget to students and their parents. WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with the center’s president Noah Berger.

As Costs Climb At Public Colleges, State Leaders Weigh Fixes — But Students Demand More

WBUR, March 5, 2018

Students from the University of Massachusetts school system and other state colleges descended on Beacon Hill Monday to ask lawmakers to do more — maybe a lot more — to curb the rising costs of public higher education in Massachusetts. In a speech, Zac Bears pointed to a report released last week from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank, which found that the per capita debt burden of all graduates from four-year public colleges and universities has more than doubled since 2003. And regardless of where students go to school, the report found that they're covering more of the costs as state aid has dwindled. Tuition accounted for about 30 percent of all state colleges' revenue in 2001; now that number is between 52 and 62 percent, depending on the school.

Advances - Week of March 4, 2018

State House News Service, March 4, 2018

The trend of reduced state support for public higher education and rising students costs and debt burdens came into focus this week with the release of a MassBudget report and the issues remain in the spotlight Monday as students visit Beacon Hill to lobby for funding and state government leaders turn out to hear University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan deliver his annual address on the state of UMass. Meehan is bullish on the university's condition and future but the report concludes that public higher education, like private institutions, are becoming even less affordable and leaving students in bigger financial holes. The state budget picture, by contrast, is as bright as it's been in a while. After overly optimistic revenue estimates required major revisions to the last two state budgets, tax receipts over the first seven months of fiscal 2018 are beating estimates by $810 million or 5.4 percent and are running $1.22 billion or 8.3 percent over the same fiscal year-to-date period in 2017. It's premature to conclude a surplus is inevitable but a major surplus is possible if the current revenue trends hold or escalate and spending is held in check. The February revenue report is due out this week, as is the latest update on jobs and unemployment.

Ben Downing: Addressing Poverty

WAMC Northeast Public Radio, March 4, 2018

Boosting the minimum wage & expanding the earned income tax credit are simple steps that would lift workers out of poverty, give them more money to spend in the economy, and reduce their need for public assistance. According to the Mass Budget & Policy Center, 63 percent of non-disabled adults living in poverty worked at least part time in the previous year. 18 percent of them worked full time. Doubling the EITC would cost $220 million, while helping nearly 400,000 Massachusetts residents get further away from poverty. That cost is not insignificant, but it seems a far wiser expenditure than continuing to cut the state income tax which disproportionately benefits the wealthiest and exacerbates inequality.

New era arrives for MassHealth patients in Berkshires

Berkshire Eagle, March 3, 2018

Tens of thousands of low-income Berkshires residents face changes in the MassHealth program, part of the state's first Medicaid overhaul in two decades. For patients, it's time to act on all those letters over the past months — and it might mean selecting a new primary care physician. For doctors, it's a large-scale rollout of the system known as "accountable care." In that, they serve as gatekeepers to improve care and contain costs. For Berkshire Health Systems and Community Health Programs, it's the dawn of a partnership in which they take on financial risks usually borne by insurers. The new system puts doctors in the driver's seat when it comes to controlling costs. MassHealth costs the state about $8 billion after federal reimbursements, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.

Report: Student Loan Debt For MA Public College Grads Grows

WGBH, March 2, 2018

The student loan debt of public college graduates in Massachusetts is rising faster than in nearly all other states, according to a new report out this week. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which did the study, found the average debt for graduates from public four-year schools now almost equals the debt of the state's private college graduates. "It hasn't always been that way," said Noah Berger who heads the research organization. "There was a time when kids coming from any kind of income background, if they're going to work hard and be able to go to college, the fees and tuitions were pretty affordable." The report also says between 2004 and 2016 the average debt for graduates from public four-year schools grew faster than in all but one state - Delaware.

Student Debt Burden Increasing At Massachusetts Public Universities

WAMC Northeast Public Radio, March 2, 2018

A new study finds Massachusetts students are borrowing more to attend the state’s public universities. Since 2004, the average student loan debt for graduates from the state’s four year public colleges and universities has increased 77 percent, a faster pace than almost every other state, according to a report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The organization’s president Noah Berger said the debt burden is close to what graduates from private universities face. " The average debt of people graduating from our public universities now is about $30,000 per person," said Berger.

Mass. students borrowing more to attend public universities

Boston Globe, March 1, 2018

Once upon a time in Massachusetts, students looking for an affordable path to a college degree turned to the state’s public colleges and universities. But that option is becoming increasingly pricey for students and their families and forcing more of them to borrow ever larger sums of money to graduate, undermining a long-held reputation of public colleges and universities as the cheaper alternative for the middle class. Between 2004 and 2016, the average student loan debt for graduates of Massachusetts’ public four-year colleges and universities rose by 77 percent, faster than in any other state in the country except Delaware, according to a report released Thursday by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a left-leaning research group that advocates for more state funding for higher education.

Massachusetts’ rising student debt said to hurt local businesses

Boston Business Journal, March 1, 2018

If it seems like you’re hearing more about the problem of student debt today than you did a decade or two ago, there’s a good reason for that. A new study out from the nonprofit Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center shows that state cuts to public higher education since 2000 have led to massive growth in average debt for graduates. Someone who graduates from a state college or university in 2016 who took out loans owed $30,248 in student debt — a 77 percent increase from 2004, adjusted to eliminate the effects of inflation. That rate of growth was higher than every state except Delaware, the report found, bringing the Bay State from having the second-lowest amount of average loan debt in 2004 to having the 10th highest in 2016. And while rising debt levels hits college-age residents the hardest, experts contend that it hurts the state’s economy as a whole.

MassBudget: Student debt rising at public universities

MassLive, March 1, 2018

The average graduate of Massachusetts' public state universities, including the University of Massachusetts, who took out a loan left school with $30,200 in student loan debt in 2016. That is only slightly lower than the $32,300 in debt faced by the average graduate of a four-year private university. A new report by the liberal-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center finds that debt among students at public colleges and universities is growing. In 2004, the study found, Massachusetts students had some of the lowest student loan debt in the country. Its rate of student loan debt is now the 10th highest in the country.

Report: Student costs surge as public higher ed support falls

State House News Service, March 1, 2018

Tuition and fees for students at Massachusetts public colleges and universities have climbed by $4,600 since 2001 as the state has cut its funding for public higher education by 14 percent and enrollment has increased, according to a new report out Thursday. The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center report said that when adjusted for inflation, students at the state's 15 community colleges have experienced a $2,800 tuition and fee increase since fiscal 2001, while the costs rose $5,400 for students at the nine state universities and $5,600 at the four undergraduate University of Massachusetts campuses. State scholarship funding has also fallen during the same time period, by 32 percent, the report said, leaving students and families to take on more debt and/or work more to pay their bills. Students graduated from four-year public institutions in Massachusetts with the second-lowest debt in the country in 2004, an inflation adjusted $17,000, MassBudget said. By 2016, the debt load for a Massachusetts public university graduate was the 10th highest in the country, at an average of just over $30,000. On Wednesday, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce officials said the average age of a first-time homebuyer is 32 and rising largely due to costs that make it difficult to save for a downpayment. Those costs include rising student debt - chamber officials said the average debt for graduates of Massachusetts colleges is nearly $32,000. In his fiscal 2019 spending plan, Gov. Charlie Baker proposed increasing funding by 1 percent for the University of Massachusetts system, state universities and community colleges. The House budget is due out in April.

Morning Edition interview on public higher education

WBUR, March 1, 2018

MassBudget President Noah Berger speaks with WBUR Morning Edition host Bob Oakes about the organization's report on public higher education.

Give Massachusetts a raise

The Massachusetts Daily Collegian, February 26, 2018

While the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has a higher minimum wage than most other states, Raise Up Massachusetts, an organization fighting for better wages, has raised enough support for a 2018 ballot measure that would establish a $15 minimum wage by 2022, with $1 increases per year. The initiative still needs to be approved by the Massachusetts General Court for it to appear on the ballot in November. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, 29 percent of the workforce in Massachusetts would receive a raise from this initiative. If a politician ran for office in Massachusetts and promised raises for 29 percent of workers, they wouldn’t be taken seriously. Some may believe that the government can’t generate growth, but initiatives like this one can make a difference. The same report found that more than a quarter of children in the Commonwealth live in households where their parents make less than $15 an hour. If Massachusetts voters reject this initiative in 2018, they are condemning most of those children to living in poverty.

Carver’s fiscal focus on budget

Wicked Local - Carver, February 23, 2018

Special education was a focus of fiscal 2019 budget discussions between the Board of Selectmen and School Committee at their recent joint meeting. The cost of special education is the biggest variable in the school district budget. Last year was unusual, Superintendent Scott Knief said, with $300,000 in unanticipated costs at this time. The town created a special education reserve fund to address the problem. While the town won’t be funding the new special education reserve fund, now in its second year, at the same level again, and maintaining a target balance of $350,000, an alternative plan is in place. Instead of $200,000, it will be funded at $37,000. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, “the Special Education Circuit Breaker program reimburses local school districts for a portion of their costs for educating severely high-needs special education students. The state reimburses a portion of district costs above a certain threshold and the precise reimbursement formula changes year-to-year depending on the total amount allocated in a given year and on the level of claims statewide. “The Circuit Breaker program was started in FY 2004. The threshold for eligibility is reached when districts spend four times the state average foundation budget on a student as calculated under the Chapter 70 education funding formula. The circuit breaker program aims to pay 75 percent of the costs above that threshold, but for several years during the recent economic downturn, reimbursement rates were below the 75 percent level. Between FY 2011 and FY 2015 the reimbursement rate averaged 73 percent.”

School funding lawsuit picks up as Worcester signals involvement

Worcester Magazine, February 22, 2018

With Worcester signaling strong support for signing on, a lawsuit brewing against the state to increase aid for large urban school districts brewing in Brockton is gaining momentum. Pending a favorable legal review, the School Committee voted unanimously in favor of entering the lawsuit last week. By some estimates, the city is owed as much as $96 million from the state. Advocates argue the current funding formula – often referred to as Chapter 70 – unfairly benefits wealthy districts and fails to adequately fund social services, English language instruction, and other support needed in large urban districts. The lawsuit, if it goes forward, would effectively be a re-do of a landmark case in the 1990s that played a part in producing the current formula. The case, McDuffy v. Secretary of the Executive Office of Education, was settled in 1993. When it was filed in 1978, the plaintiffs argued the state did not provide the same level of education to students in poor districts that it did wealthy. In addition, the state was not doing what it could to fill the gap between what students needed and what cities and towns could themselves raise through property taxes, according to a summary of the case put together by MassBudget, an education policy organization. In 1993, just a few days after the lawsuit was settled, the Education Reform Act passed, which implemented the Chapter 70 formula. Since then, however, advocates feel the formula has moved further and further away from the ideal. Reforms in 2007 increased this base funding district received considerably, shifting a greater proportion of state resources to these higher wealth districts, according to MassBudget. Now health insurance and special education are underfunded to the tune of $1 billion, respectively, and low-income students may not be seeing the benefits promised in the law.

Townie: Mass Regional Transit Authorities face major budget crisis

Dig Boston, February 21, 2018

A quarter-century ago, I lived in Lawrence for a few months. Because it was the closest place to Boston that I could find a cheap apartment on short notice. Unfortunately, I had a low-paying job in the city and couldn’t afford a car. So I took the commuter rail over an hour each way back and forth whenever I had a shift. Then at the end of the day, I was faced with getting to my apartment a couple of miles away from the station. Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority (MVRTA) bus service ran near my place. But even in the early 1990s with a state budget that looks more humane in retrospect, it was infrequent at best. And my bus dropped me off a few blocks away from where I lived when it was running. Now that was during rush hour on a weekday. Standing in the middle of Duck Bridge one Sunday night in mid-February during a fierce snowstorm, I experienced a moment of nearly perfect alienation. Fast-forward to this week, and that memory immediately sprang to mind when I read the transportation section of Gov. Charlie Baker’s annual state budget proposal. And discovered that he’s planning to level-fund the 15 regional transit authorities (RTAs) for $80.4 million, according to the Mass Budget and Policy Center, while most Bostonians are focusing on the ongoing fight to keep the MBTA solvent. Authorities like the Merrimack Valley Regional Transit Authority… which is already cutting back bus, van, and Boston commuter service and eliminating that Sunday service I kept missing in the early ’90s. Since level-funding means a budget cut, given annual cost increases. And it’s not looking like the legislature is likely to swoop in to save the RTAs later in our now-normalized austerity budget process.

MassHealth seen as critical to children’s coverage rate

Boston Globe, February 20, 2018

About 12,000 children in Massachusetts lack health insurance, giving the state a 99 percent coverage rate among its 1.39 million children. That’s according to data presented recently by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, one of several organizations that took part in a “checkup” gauging the status of programs and policies related to children’s health. “Almost every single kid has health insurance,” Nancy Wagman, MassBudget’s Kids Count program director, said at the briefing, hosted by the Children’s Health Access Coalition. Wagman said some of the 12,000 children without insurance can be explained by “natural churn,” but efforts should be made to get those kids enrolled in plans. “There is no child in Massachusetts who should be without health insurance,” she said. “Let’s get that circle around every single one of those kids.” About 640,000 children are “touched by” MassHealth, with the state Medicaid program serving as either their primary or secondary form of insurance, Wagman said. It’s a statistic she said is “not an accident” but the result of decisions made on Beacon Hill to extend coverage. MassHealth is the largest spending area in the state budget. In hopes of controlling MassHealth costs, Governor Charlie Baker in his fiscal 2019 budget proposal included new tools to manage growth in the program’s pharmacy spending and a transition of 140,000 non-disabled adults with incomes between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty line off of MassHealth and onto comparable plans at the Massachusetts Health Connector.

How Trump Tax Reform Affects Mass.

Boston Neighborhood Network News, February 13, 2018

The president of the Mass. Budget and Policy Center, Noah Berger, talks about its report on how the recent federal tax reform legislation affects people in Massachusetts. Interview for BNN News. Aired February 13, 2018.

Our view: State should expand Earned Income Tax Credit

Gloucester Times, February 12, 2018

Much of the recent debate on Beacon Hill has been centered around ballot initiatives that would cut the state sales tax, increase the minimum wage and take another 4 percent in taxes from those who make more than $1 million a year. All are ostensibly aimed at putting more money in the pockets of low- and middle-income residents, yet all come with unanswered questions attached. If lawmakers are serious about helping low- and middle-income families – especially those with children – there is a proven way to do it: Expand the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit. “Wages have stagnated for low- and moderate-income workers in Massachusetts, making it increasingly difficult for hard-working parents to make ends meet and provide for their children,” said Noah Berger of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. “This program helps push back against that trend.”

MassMutual to build $240 million office in Seaport District

Boston Globe, February 8, 2018

Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. said Thursday that it will bring about 1,000 workers to a $240 million office space the financial services firm plans to build on Fan Pier, making it the latest major business to expand in Boston’s booming Seaport District. Springfield-based MassMutual said the move is part of a broader strategy to consolidate operations in its home state and give the company increased access to the city’s growing pool of tech and financial industry workers. But Noah Berger, president of the liberal-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said he is skeptical of the value of such a large tax break. Berger said the state might have been better served using the money to invest directly in projects in Springfield.

Small business group supports lower teen wage if minimum wage increase adopted

WWLP-22 News, February 5, 2018

An initiative petition headed for the 2018 ballot would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. But some business groups believe the move may be difficult for small businesses to absorb and want the state to implement a lower wage for teen workers. If the minimum wage increase ballot question passes, members of the National Federation for Independent would like a teen wage established, according to the group’s Massachusetts State Director Christopher Carlozzi. Carlozzi said an increased minimum wage could crowd teen workers out of the market. But according to Senior Policy Analyst Nicole Rodriguez with Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, studies show the pay raise would have little to no affect on the employment for teens.

Baker seeks bigger break for low-income families

Gloucester Times, February 2, 2018

Gov. Charlie Baker wants to expand a popular tax credit that benefits low-income families, but lawmakers still must find a way to pay for it. Baker's preliminary $41 billion budget includes plans to raise the credit to up to 30 percent of what qualifying workers claim in earned income credits on their federal tax returns. The change, expected to cost about $65 million a year, wouldn't go into effect until the 2020 tax year. If lawmakers agree, it would be the second increase to the tax credit under the Baker administration. In 2016, Baker signed legislation increasing the credit from 15 percent to 23 percent of what workers claim on their federal returns. That boosted the maximum state tax credit from $951 to $1,459 per person.

SJC decision may dictate fate of sales tax cut, Hurst says

Boston Business Journal, January 31, 2018

Nearly nine years after lawmakers hiked the sales tax in the teeth of the Great Recession, the state "simply cannot afford" to bring the tax on purchases back down to 5 percent, a lobbyist for the umbrella labor group AFL-CIO told lawmakers on Wednesday. The Revenue Committee on Wednesday received input from municipal, labor and transportation group representatives who want to keep the sales tax where it is, and spokespeople for retailers and small businesses who support lowering the tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent and instituting an annual sales tax holiday. If lawmakers don't pass the initiative petition proposal by May 1, proponents could collect about 11,000 signatures to place the measure (H 4114) on the November ballot. While millions might weigh in on the idea in voting booths later this year, Wednesday's hearing was relatively sparsely attended, wrapping up testimony on the bill in about 30 minutes.

Paid leave, minimum wage campaigns spurring talks on the Hill

State House News Service, January 30, 2018

Two key Democrats in the House and Senate are working to make sure voters don't have to decide whether a $15 minimum wage and guaranteed paid family and medical leave is good public policy, but it's another group holding all the cards. The Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development held a hearing Tuesday on two proposed ballot questions that, barring a legislative compromise or advocates failing to gather the requisite signatures, will be headed to the ballot in November. The first question would raise the minimum wage from $11 an hour to $15 in single dollar increments starting in 2019, and raise the minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.75 to $9 per hour, plus tips. The second question would guarantee workers 12 to 16 weeks of paid leave to care for a family member or after the birth of child, or up to 26 paid weeks for in the event of their own illness or injury.

Group calls for MBTA to boost corporate pass program

Boston Globe, January 26, 2018

The MBTA should look to the corporate world for more riders — and more money, a new report from the Pioneer Institute argues. The right-leaning Massachusetts think tank called on the T to boost marketing of its corporate pass program, which allows companies to either outright buy passes for workers or allow employees to buy monthly cards using pre-tax earnings, effectively getting a discount on the cost. The Pioneer report comes weeks after the more liberal Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center published a report arguing the T is underfunded because the agency has not received as much revenue from the state sales tax as previously projected.

Experts: Proceed with caution as trillions shift under new tax law

State House News Service, January 24, 2018

As some other states scramble to find workarounds to mitigate impacts of the new federal tax law, Massachusetts lawmakers got a yellow light Tuesday from experts they invited to weigh on paths they might take. "I feel confident saying that Massachusetts has not been put in an emergency situation by federal tax reform," Michael Heffernan, state secretary of administration and finance, told the Legislature's Revenue Committee. "There is time for a thoughtful approach." Heffernan and others who testified before the committee recommended that the Legislature proceed with caution, noting guidance from the Internal Revenue Service and technical corrections are still likely to emerge after President Donald Trump signed a tax overhaul into law last month.

Massachusetts Urged to Throttle Back on Federal Tax Reform

Tax Notes, January 24, 2018

Massachusetts lawmakers were cautioned to carefully consider how the new federal tax law might affect the state before pursuing any action in response to the legislation. The warning came from almost a dozen local and national tax experts, municipal officers, nonprofit leaders, and education advocates about the potential impact of federal tax reform on Massachusetts during a January 23 hearing before the state legislature's Joint Committee on Revenue.

Change sought as Massachusetts shortchanges Holyoke $4.3 million in charter reimbursements since 2013

MassLive, January 24, 2018

If state officials had kept the commonwealth's promise, the city would have received an additional $4.3 million to cover charter school costs since 2013, an official said Tuesday. The City Council Ordinance Committee voted at City Hall Tuesday to support a proposal from Mayor Alex B. Morse and seek a home rule petition in the Massachusetts Legislature to prompt full reimbursement for costs related to some students opting out of the public schools and attending charter school. Councilor Rebecca Lisi said the committee voted to ask the Law Department to draft a home rule petition for the full the City Council to consider.

Tax Questions Complicate Massachusetts Budget Plans

WAMC Northeast Public Radio, January 24, 2018

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker unveiled a $41 billion budget proposal today, beginning a process to have a spending plan in place for the state for the fiscal year starting July 1st. As always, one of the big unknowns is how much money will the state actually collect to balance the books. The first step toward building a new state budget started a few weeks ago with the little noticed announcement of what is known as the consensus revenue estimate – a projection by the Republican administration and the Democratic legislative leadership upon which the next budget will be based. Revenue is estimated to grow over this current fiscal year by 3.5 percent. That is the smallest forecast increase since 2010. Although the state’s economy has been growing at a pace exceeding the nation as a whole, tax collections have lagged behind the budget benchmarks for the last three fiscal years. That has led to spending cuts or other adjustments to keep the budget balanced, as required by law.

Why doesn’t Massachusetts have a budget surplus by now?

Boston Globe, January 24, 2018

On Wednesday, Governor Baker unveiled his $40.9 billion budget plan for the coming year, and once again Massachusetts is facing a deficit. Make it 12 in a row. And while it’s true that the initial deficit for fiscal year 2019 is much smaller than previous shortfalls — tens of millions instead of a cool billion — that isn’t nearly good enough. At this stage of an economic recovery — with statewide unemployment under 4 percent and tax collections beating expectations — Massachusetts should be running a significant budget surplus. That’s the most fundamental rule of sound budgeting, going back to the biblical story of Joseph: Build surpluses in fat times to prepare for the rising need that comes with lean days. Right now, the state has about $1.3 billion in its rainy day savings account, a number that has actually fallen in recent years once you adjust for inflation. While the governor has proposed making deposits of about $150 million over the next 18 months, that would still leave the account relatively underfunded. By comparison, when the Great Recession hit, the state used over $2 billion in rainy day funds. Even the milder recession of 2001-2002 required a $1.5 billion drawdown.

Baker touts budget investments, but progress called into question

State House News Service, January 24, 2018

Gov. Charlie Baker voiced a message of fiscal discipline Wednesday as he rolled out his $40.9 billion budget for next year, highlighting proposed investments aimed at making college more affordable and fighting the opioid epidemic. "Our priorities here are relatively consistent with some of our historical ones," Baker said at a press conference announcing his fiscal 2019 budget, which raises spending by 2.6 percent. "We've tried to be pretty good about funding unrestricted general government aid to cities and towns, at least at the rate that tax revenue grows, to continue to invest in K-12 education and to put resources on the table for both early childhood education and higher education to help people pay for access to college programming." Noah Berger of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center said Baker's spending plan "doesn't make much progress" despite some positive measures like an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit. He said the 2.5 percent increase in K-12 education funding amounts to "essentially an inflation-level increase...which doesn't really do anything to significantly improve the quality of education in K-12 schools." "There's some bright spots, but in some areas it looks like there's just waiting and not being able to make progress right now on those issues, and right now we're in about the best economic times that we've had in a long time," Berger said. "So this is kind of the time when you'd like to see real progress on things that improve the lives of ordinary working people, like improving the quality of education, improving our transportation system, and to be increasingly fiscally responsible by building up the reserve funds."

Baker budget boosts local aid, education funding

Gloucester Times, January 24, 2018

Cities and towns would get more state aid while school districts would also see more money under Gov. Charlie Baker’s preliminary 2019 budget, which was unveiled Wednesday. Baker’s $40.9 billion budget boosts local aid funding in the coming fiscal year by 3.5 percent, or $37.2 million, to $1.1 billion. Meanwhile, it increases Chapter 70 funding for local schools by $118.6 million to $4.865 billion. The spending package, which requires the Legislature’s approval, doesn’t call for raising taxes or fees and boosts the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund to more than $1.6 billion.

What's in Gov. Charlie Baker's FY19 budget proposal?

MassLive, January 24, 2018

Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscal 2019 budget revived several proposals lawmakers have previously rejected. It made some new investments in education, mental health services and opioid addiction. The $40.905 billion state budget would be 2.6 percent higher than this year’s budget. Baker’s proposal now goes to the House, where lawmakers will write their own version. “Since taking office, our administration has worked collaboratively with the Legislature to craft fiscally responsible budgets that invest in key priorities to build strong, thriving communities in every zip code,” Baker said at a press conference. “We successfully reduced the structural budget gap, kept spending in line with revenue growth, all without raising taxes.”

In budget proposal, Baker tries again to move 140,000 residents off Medicaid

Boston Globe, January 24, 2018

Aiming to stem rising state health care costs, Governor Charlie Baker on Wednesday unveiled a $40.9 billion budget proposal that would move 140,000 low-income adults off Medicaid and onto private health care plans. The effort reprises a version of a health care proposal that was rejected by the Legislature multiple times before — and it quickly drew a negative response from a top lawmaker. Baker said the administration has made some key changes to the plan, taking lawmakers’ feedback into account and ensuring that those 140,000 people would have access to, more or less, the same health benefits even after leaving MassHealth, the state Medicaid program.

Here’s how much the top 1% in Mass. will get under the federal tax cut

Boston Business Journal, January 23, 2018

A new analysis suggests that the top 1 percent of income-earners in the state will get the vast majority of the benefits of the new federal tax cuts even despite new limits on deductions of state and local taxes. According to the analysis by MassBudget, the top 1 percent in Massachusetts are those with incomes of at least $808,270. The average income of the top 1 percent is $3 million per year. The federal tax cuts will reduce the taxes paid by that population by more than $2.96 billion in 2019, the first year the cuts are fully in effect.

Panel Advised Against Hasty Response to US Tax Overhaul

Associated Press, January 23, 2018

Massachusetts lawmakers were urged Tuesday to avoid hasty or knee-jerk reactions to the new federal tax reform law, with state officials and experts arguing it could take years to fully understand its ramifications. The Legislature's Revenue Committee held an informational hearing as a first step in determining whether new state laws or regulations are needed in response to the federal changes, as several other states are actively considering. "I feel confident in saying that Massachusetts has not been put in an emergency situation by federal tax reform," said Michael Heffernan, state secretary of administration and finance. "There is time for a thoughtful process."

MassBudget: Tax law delivering $3 bil in relief to state's highest earners

State House News Service, January 23, 2018

The new federal tax law will reduce the taxes paid by the Bay State's top 1 percent of income earners by more than $2.96 billion in 2019, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which is also cautioning of a "gradual erosion" in value of the Earned Income Tax Credit and predicting a one-time temporary spike in capital gains tax revenue. MassBudget is one of 17 groups with representatives slated to testify at a Revenue Committee hearing Tuesday. Committee co-chairs Rep. Jay Kaufman and Sen. Michael Brady called the hearing to gather information on how the new tax law will affect Massachusetts government, residents and municipalities and learn about ways the state might respond.

Joint Committee on Revenue hearing

State of Massachusetts, January 23, 2018

MassBudget President Noah Berger testifies before the Joint Committee beginning around minute 56.

In budget tease, Baker details local aid increases

State House News Service, January 19, 2018

The annual budget proposal Gov. Charlie Baker plans to file next week will call for a general local aid increase of $37.2 million over this year, and an almost $119 million hike in education aid to cities and towns. Baker disclosed the first details of his local aid plan at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Municipal Association at the Hynes Convention Center, drawing applause from the crowd of mayors, selectmen and town administrators. Legislative and administration budget writers agreed earlier this month that they expect state tax revenues to rise by 3.5 percent, and Baker said the increase in unrestricted local aid -- which would bring the total to about $1.1 billion in fiscal 2019 -- will match that growth.

$15 minimum wage would have significant Worcester impact

Worcester Telegram, January 19, 2018

Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would have a significant impact on Worcester, directly changing the pay of nearly one-third of all local wage earners, according to a local research organization. Businesses that employ workers would have to adjust their payrolls, and the city’s municipal and school operations could face an additional $750,000 in combined work force expenses, The Research Bureau said. The result could be a boon to the local economy – or a loss of jobs, the bureau said in the new report, “Minimizing Risk – The Implications of a $15 Minimum Wage for Worcester.”

Analysis: For Mass. High-Earners, Tax Law's Cuts Will More Than Make Up For New SALT Cap

WBUR, January 12, 2018

For Massachusetts' highest-income households, tax cuts in the recent Republican overhaul will more than make up for the plan's new cap on state and local tax deductions, according to an analysis out Thursday. Among its provisions, the law signed by President Trump late last year established a $10,000 limit on the deductibility of those state and local taxes (SALT) -- a cap that's drawn much attention, especially in states with relatively high taxes and housing costs. But the new analysis — from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, a group that mostly studies issues affecting low- and moderate-income people — finds that for households in the state earning more than $1 million a year, "the average tax cuts from other federal changes in the law are more than twice the average size of the impact from the loss of SALT deductibility."

State leaders are facing trickiest budget cycle in recent years

Boston Globe, January 11, 2018

Beacon Hill leaders, who in recent years have overestimated how much cash from taxes Massachusetts will bring in, are now facing their trickiest budget cycle since the Great Recession. Beyond the normal unpredictability of the economy, State House number-crunchers must sort through far more fiscal question marks than usual as they calculate how much money there will be to fund government programs — and how to spend it — in the fiscal year that starts July 1. These variables include the outcome of separate ballot questions raising income taxes on the very wealthy and lowering the sales tax for everyone; the Justice Department’s threat to crack down on Massachusetts’ fledgling marijuana industry, which could choke off a new source of tax revenue; pressure from Wall Street for the state to sock away more money in its rainy day fund; and uncertainty about federal dollars that have in past years helped state programs such as health insurance for the poor.

State tax breaks to film industry totaled nearly $100M last year

Boston Business Journal, January 11, 2018

Massachusetts paid more than twice as much through its film tax incentive program last fiscal year than it did through its two other main tax-credit programs that together cover every industry in the state, according to the commonwealth’s annual financial statement. In fiscal 2017, the state lost an estimated $91 million in tax breaks to the film industry. The program, which has come under fire in recent years as a waste of money, is designed to lure film productions to Massachusetts by giving filmmakers breaks on payroll, sales and other taxes. The credits have been used by such movies as "Ghostbusters" and "Black Mass."

Sluggish growth in sales tax revenue is hurting the T, says report

Boston Business Journal, January 10, 2018

A new study from the nonprofit MassBudget identifies a surprising side effect of a shift in spending habits over the past two decades toward items without sales tax: less funding than anticipated for the MBTA.

Report: Sales Tax has not been MBTA Lifeline, as Envisioned

State House News Service, January 10, 2018

The MBTA's share of sales tax revenues has fallen short of original projections and failed to deliver the stable funding source lawmakers envisioned when they overhauled the agency's finances in 2000, according to a new report.

Letter to the Editor: The $15 minimum wage will help all — including teens

Boston Globe, January 4, 2018

The president of the Massachusettts AFL-CIO writes in a letter to the editor: "...according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, following two years of Massachusetts minimum wage increases, teen unemployment remains at its lowest rate in 18 years. As the article notes, the study also finds that many teen workers contribute to their family budget, since their parents are employed in low-wage jobs as well. Those very budgets will become further stretched if heads of household are passed over for younger, cheaper workers."

Raising Minimum Wage Helps Teens, Their Families

Public News Service, January 4, 2018

"While teens are only 12 percent of minimum wage workers in the state, Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, says for many, it would mean a boost for their entire family. 'Those 12 percent who are teenagers, their income is an important part, very often, of their family income, of being able to help their family to pay for basic necessities,' he points out. The study found that working teens in families with total earnings below $47,000 a year bring in almost 18 percent of the family income."

Getting on the Ballot: What we’ll be Voting on in 2018

Valley Advocate, January 2, 2018

"While many food service and retail workers would be affected by the minimum wage increase, they are not the only ones. Erin Wilson is a servicing representative for UAW local 2322 who said that the narrative that all minimum wage workers are teenagers is a myth. A report released by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center last week showed that teens only represent 10 percent of the workforce who would benefit from the minimum wage increase. Her local represents many different kinds of workplaces, including many in the mental health and behavioral health fields. 'The state just does not fund mental health the way they should,' Wilson said. 'It doesn’t reflect a minimum wage and it doesn’t reflect the quality of work they’re doing.'"

Schools still recovering from cuts

Lowell Sun, January 1, 2018

"In Fiscal Year 2007, before the brunt of the recession hit, the Massachusetts Legislature altered the way the state calculates aid for public schools -- known as Chapter 70 aid. Those 2007 reforms aimed to increase funding for schools through several smaller steps, according to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. But as the recession hit, those reforms -- which were planned to be phased in over five years -- were slowed down, and didn't take effect as they were supposed to. Chapter 70 aid was actually cut 'across the board' from 2009 to 2011, according to MassBudget. And in FY 2010, the state calculated education funding using a lower inflation factor than required by state law, MassBudget said, meaning public schools got less money than usual. The federal government had to step in and provide stimulus provisions to protect some districts."

Low-wage workers in 18 states getting New Year’s raise, but nothing for MA workers

Sampan, December 27, 2017

"Increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2022 would raise the wages of roughly 943,000 workers, or 29 percent of the state’s workforce, according to a report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. 90 percent of workers who would be affected are 20 years old or older, 56 percent are women, and 55 percent work full-time. Workers who are paid low wages include professions like nursing assistants, childcare providers and paramedics."

$15 minimum wage could have big impact on teens

Boston Globe, December 26, 2017

Teens who work — and live in households with roughly $47,000 or less in annual income — account for nearly 18 percent of their families’ total income. In addition to allowing lower-income teens to contribute more to their families financially, a bigger paycheck would allow college students to work less, study more, and ultimately be more successful.

Despite Higher Minimum Wage, Teen Unemployment In Mass. Is At An 18-Year Low

WBUR, December 26, 2017

"A higher minimum wage hasn't led to a drop off in teen employment, according to a study out Tuesday by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center... Mass. Budget also found teenagers in low-income families contribute a significant share of the family's income — almost 18 percent for families earning less than $47,000 a year. That's more than double the average contribution for all families in Massachusetts."

Report: Massachusetts minimum wage hike could help teens, December 26, 2017

"Among the findings: If the minimum wage is increased to $15 by 2022, 89 percent of working teens would get a raise. Teenagers make up about 10 percent of workers who would get a raise under the proposed increase. Teenagers in Massachusetts contribute, on average, 7.4 percent of their family's wages, with teens making up a larger percentage of household income in lower-income families."

Report: Minimum Wage Hikes Have Little Effect on Teen Jobs

State House News Service, December 26, 2017

MassBudget senior policy analyst Nicole Rodriguez on the findings of "little to no effect" on teen employment from minimum wage increases, and the importance of teen wages to low-income households: "Teen employment rises when the economy is strong, and falls when it is weak. We found that, following two years of minimum wage increases in Massachusetts, teen unemployment was at its lowest in 18 years. While minimum wage increases don't have a large effect on employment, they do have a significant effect on the wages and incomes of teens and their families."

Question remains: How will GOP tax bill shake out for county programs over long haul?

Berkshire Eagle, December 20, 2017

MassBudget president Noah Berger on the impact of the 2017 GOP tax bill on Berkshire County: "Most of the benefit goes to high-income individuals and corporations, and that's going to be paid for with cuts that could, in fact, be things like health care and education and transportation — things that are important in Berkshire County. There is some evidence that the long-term way to build a strong economy is to invest in people. That means education and infrastructure and transportation, and this tax cut makes it harder for the federal government to do that."

Tax cuts that continue to haunt Mass

Boston Globe - Op-Ed, February 12, 2013

Tax policy debates are about how we pay for the things we do together for our communities, our families, and our economy. Working together through government allows us to accomplish things that are vital to us as a Commonwealth and that we can't do alone...About 15 years ago, at the height of the dot-com bubble, our state made tax policy choices that have shaped state policy ever since...The state enacted a series of cuts to the income tax that are now costing us close to $3 billion a year. We cut the tax rate on most income from 5.95 percent to 5.3 percent, costing over $1.5 billion. We cut the tax rate on dividends and interest from 12 percent to 5.3 percent, costing about $850 million. We increased the personal deduction to $4,400, costing $550 million.

Look at what the state is doing right

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, January 23, 2011

WITH THE governor scheduled to file his budget proposal for the coming year on Wednesday, and the Commonwealth facing a budget gap of close to $2 billion, knowing that our government provides services as efficiently as possible will be more important than ever.