Financial issues will be front and center throughout the coming legislative session.
Here is an outline of key issues that I see as the session starts to shape up. I will supplement this outline over time with links to comments and resources:
- How do we control municipal health care costs – do we make it easier for municipalities to join the Group Insurance Commission? I believe we should.
- Should we ask public employees to bear some of the burden of budget cutting by increasing their contributions for health insurance coverage? Do we offset the increased contributions for the lowest income employees with wage increases?
- Can we reform the pension system? Most importantly, can we tie pension payouts more tightly to lifetime contributions (while preserving the principle of a defined benefit)?
- Are there other large cost-saving reforms that we can undertake at the state level – transportation reorganization? Or do we really face irreducibly painful choices among competing legitimate priorities? View Transportation Finance Commission report .
- Might improved public disclosure rules in some areas facilitate cost-savings?
- Can we reduce minimum mandatory sentences for some crimes and reduce our prison population? See drug policy posts.
- As revenues dwindle, how do educational experiments like extended learning time trade off against basic local aid for schools? View summary of education perspective.
- Could we save money and improve the quality and breadth of education by reducing emphasis on the MCAS exam and reducing related bureaucratic burdens? Or would that unacceptably reduce the accountability of school districts? View summary of education perspective (I don’t favor contracting the MCAS, but note that delaying expansion of the MCAS might be an option.)
- As revenues dwindle, how will we strike the balance between preserving lifeline human services and preserving core local services?
- How do we cover Big Dig debt costs and fund state-wide transportation system maintenance – gas tax, tolls, congestion pricing? See text background and summary of discussion.
- How do we, while preserving essential state revenues, provide the middle-class tax relief sought by Yes voters on Question One? Is an increase in the personal exemption on the income tax, combined with an increased rate a good approach? See proposal. See Income tax proposal follow-up.
- Will the state’s leadership seek and will the public support any broad-based tax increases if state revenues crater, forcing deep cuts in essential services? Is an extra penny on the sales tax a part of the solution?
- Are we willingto start using the tax system to further environmental goals, for example, by taxing gas guzzling cars at a higher rate than efficient cars?