The Massachusetts Senate yesterday finalized a Fiscal Year 2012 budget that includes no tax increases and provides cities and towns the authority to manage their health insurance costs. The Senate and House of Representatives will now negotiate the final budget proposal through a conference committee.
AIM commends Senate President Therese Murray and Steven Brewer, Senate Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, for taking steps to encourage job creation by passing a fiscally responsible budget. Brewer indicated that lawmakers faced significant challenges as the economy continues its sluggish recovery.
“The absence of $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funds and growth in non-discretionary costs leave us with a budget gap of $1.9 billion. Once again, we will utilize a balanced approach to address this shortfall, but deep cuts to services and programs cannot be avoided. We must continue to do more with less,” Brewer said.
Broad budget agreement between the Senate and House virtually assures that the commonwealth will navigate its fourth year of fiscal crisis without a tax increase. The two chambers also agree on creating a trust for the state’s flagship worker training program, a signal that lawmakers agree with AIM and employers that the program should be removed from the uncertainty of annual budget deliberations.
“Placing the Workforce Training Fund into a trust will create the kind of predictability that employers need to improve the skills of Massachusetts workers. We are gratified that the Senate included this provision in its budget proposal,”said Richard C. Lord, President of AIM and chair of the WTF Advisory Board.
Other key employer issues for the conference committee include:
- Municipal plan design: Both House and Senate versions would leave cities and towns to continue negotiating with unions over the percentage of premiums paid by employees. Ultimately, the lawmakers estimate that both reform plans would save approximately $100 million per year.
- The Senate budget does not include a provision of the House plan that would limit the onerous 2008 treble damages law to willful violations of the state wage and hour statute. AIM looks forward to continued discussions with the Legislature on modifying treble damages.
Lord said AIM will continue to review the House and Senate budget proposals and begin work with the members of the conference committee and leadership of both branches regarding the issue that impact employers.