Letter from Administration re Budget

Legislators received this communication from the Patrick Administration on October 15.   Most of us feel that cuts are a necessary response to economic conditions.  See my piece from earlier this week.

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Dear Legislators,

Below, please find the Patrick-Murray Administration Fiscal Management Plan.

Sincerely,

Governmental Affairs
617-725-4090

PATRICK-MURRAY ADMINISTRATION FISCAL MANAGEMENT PLAN
Fiscal Year 2010

  • Despite the best forecasts, tax revenues for the first quarter of this fiscal year are off by $212 million. ANF and DOR have consulted with independent economists and now project FY10 tax revenue at just under $18.3 billion.  This means we have to act immediately to bring state spending in line with a $600 million shortfall.
  • The private sector economy is beginning to recover.  Housing sales and starts and the capital markets are strengthening, business investment is growing, and there has been an uptick in consumer and business confidence.  The IT, life sciences, clean energy, health care and education sectors – the very ones this administration has focused on – are leading us to higher ground.  As long as so many people need jobs, we will continue to work every day to expand opportunity throughout the Commonwealth.
  • At the same time state revenues, which depend on tax receipts, tend to lag.  They look back to past economic performance rather than forward to the better times ahead.  The choices we are dealing with in state government, just like many of us and our neighbors at home, are unlike anything the Commonwealth has ever had to face.  And we have to adjust.
  • The challenge facing us in the next fiscal year is just as serious.  If we simply maintain spending next year at levels necessary to deliver the same level of services we deliver now, budget watchdog groups have estimated that we will face a further shortfall of as much as $2 to 3 billion.

Governor Patrick announced today a 5-point fiscal management plan to address this shortfall:

  1. Reduce spending by $600 million

o       This may include suspending certain programs or asking outside entities – such as quasi-public agencies, business groups or community advocates — to take on services or programs currently delivered by government.

o       The Cabinet will work with the various client groups, vendors, state workers and others affected by these changes to develop new spending plans and to collaborate with them on ways to achieve the necessary savings while doing the least harm to essential services.

  1. Reduce payroll by up to 2,000 positions

o       In order to preserve as many positions as possible and continue to provide services, agencies will implement a second round of furloughs for executive branch managers of up to 9 days, depending on salary level.

o       The Governor is also calling on state workers and their unions to work with ANF and Labor & Workforce Development on contract revisions and other ways to share in this sacrifice.  If we can reach agreement on a savings plan by October 30th, we can avoid or reduce the number of layoffs.  If we cannot, then we will have no choice but to proceed with layoffs.

  1. Consolidate state agencies and services wherever possible

o       In preparation for the FY11 budget as well as to cope with current challenges, has called for a plan from Cabinet Secretaries to consolidate as many different agencies and functions as we can.

§         Examples of consolidation would include Human Resource services; the various agencies that help promote business development and investment, and the like.  We have to find cheaper ways to get the job done. This plan might also include such measures as the sale of surplus state property.

  1. Energy cost savings through joint purchasing

o       The Governor is directing all facilities managers in state government to work with the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs and the Secretary of Administration and Finance on a comprehensive plan to save money by making state buildings as energy efficient as possible and by entering into common energy purchase strategies, plans and contract agreements.  Today, agencies buy their energy independently and at widely varying rates.  By pooling the state’s purchasing power, we can maximize savings.

  1. Expanded 9C authority

o       The Governor will ask the Legislature for expanded 9C authority to spread the pain as broadly as possible and so that no one element of public service bears more than its share. 

o       The Governor has asked constitutional officers to voluntarily submit a plan to reduce their own spending in the current fiscal year at levels consistent with what I am asking of Executive branch agencies.

o       The Governor and Lt. Governor will also continue to push for more municipal relief proposals now pending in the Legislature, which will build on tools we’ve already created such as giving communities the ability to join the GIC or the state pension system.

  • For each and every one of us dealing with these challenges is about more than just line items on a spreadsheet.  We see all of the people across the state who depend on government in some way.
  • As the Governor said, better times will come and there are signs they are not far off.  We will continue to make the investments we can in our long-term economic and community strength.
  • But right now, for those who look to state government for help or support, we face still more challenges, and we will have to stick together and work together — in the spirit of community — to get through it.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

10 replies on “Letter from Administration re Budget”

  1. Thanks, Will, for the opportunity.

    I understand that the Governor’s budget will include funds for mounting cameras at stop lights at intersections throughout the state. I have many reservations about this “big brother” approach to revenue enhancement, but I will include the fact it simply does not work in the long term.

    Many states have initiated “red-light” cameras which photograph the driver’s license plate for what the camera records as a violation, and a ticket is issued. The majority of states that have used cameras, have since disabled them because they have been shown to increase accidents. People stop short to avoid a ticket and are rear-ended, for example.

    Massachusetts state law currently declares only a police officer can issue a citation; Governor Patrick now wants to include the photo-op… He sees us as a revenue stream. That is just wrong on so many levels.

    I wonder why there is no mention of the red-light cameras at intersections plan in the above Patrick-Murray Administration Fiscal Management Plan. Did I miss it? I will say there are a good number of bullet points with which I could agree (if they should ever come to pass).

    I look forward to your response.

  2. Thanks, Nancy, for being in touch.

    I can’t see such a plan making money for the state. I also wouldn’t expect it to be rolled out by the state it is largely a local issue.

    I do tend to support the use of these cameras at intersections where there is a history of problems. We just don’t have the resources to do enough enforcement to protect people. I don’t see limited use of these cameras as a real privacy issue. No one is talking about putting them up everywhere.

    We’ll check in to the Governor’s position on this and also check on what is happening lately in the legislature on this and make a further post. I’m under the impression that we recently included some language about the devices in one of our small budget adjustment bills — that may be where the rumor is coming from.

    All best.

    /w.

    1. Thank you for your quick response to my question regarding the use of cameras at intersections. As I understand it, Will is in favor of them at certain problematic points in Belmont.

      Jason Faller, Will’s Legislative Intern, addressed the privacy issues pretty thoroughly. What I did not see in Will’s or Jason’s response, is data on rear-end accidents at such intersection.

      Some time ago, the town of Brookline set up cameras and had to take them down (that’s a budget-buster). Their experience might be a good source to research camera-related accidents. I am certain there is data on such incidents available from other Massachusetts towns and cities, and from across the country.

      May I add that the prospect of a fine of up to $100.00 would cause a lot of folks to be uncertain at intersections, which could lead to a rear-end accident, and fines all around. The only good news is that any incidents would not affect insurance ratings of the first driver; the driver who might cause a rear-end accident, might not be so lucky.

      I think the Belmont Police do a great job keeping us safe while enforcing traffic regulations.

      1. Hi Nancy,

        But people are supposed to stop at the lights. And the people behind them can also see the light and are also supposed to stop. That’s the system — cameras or no. You are certainly right — stopping at lights probably does cause some rear end collisions. I’ve actually had someone hit me from behind at a stop sign. But lights and stop signs prevents high speed head-ons and laterals which are much more dangerous.

        I think each town needs to make enforcement decisions judiciously at intersections and I have confidence in the ability of the towns to do so. It make take some experimentation, but I support giving localities the ability to use cameras where they determine them to be useful for public safety.

        /w.

        1. Tough call on this one. The question is does the revenue from tickets offset the cost of the Camera, Installation, Maintenance and Software in months or years? If we could ticket bicyclists for running lights we would bring in alot more revenue from what I see on the Roads in BEL/ARL/CAMB.

  3. More information on red light camera proposal

    On October 29, Governor Patrick filed a message recommending legislation relative to an act implementing fiscal stability measures for fiscal year 2010 (H4303).

    Section 18 of this bill would authorize the installation of red light cameras in cities and towns. There is a lot of detail in this section, but these are the main points:

    This is a local option proposal; each city or town can decide whether to use a monitoring system and adopt local fines.
    The system would only record vehicles in violation of the traffic control system.
    Photographs taken record the rear of the vehicle with at least 1 image recording the vehicle before the violation and at least 1 recording the vehicle passing through the intersection in violation of the signal. Also 1 image must clearly identify the registration plate.
    To the extent practicable, the system should not record a frontal view photo of the vehicle or images that identify the occupants or contents.
    A designated law enforcement officer in the town has to affirm that a violation took place before a notice is sent to the owner. There are provisions for a hearing.
    The fine cannot exceed $100. The fines are payable to the parking clerk of the city or town.
    The presence of the monitoring system shall be clearly indicated at the intersection.
    Penalties shall not be a criminal conviction and shall not be made part of the operating record of the person or be used for insurance rating purposes.
    Photographs taken that do not identify a violation must be destroyed within 90 days of the date of recording. Photographs that identify a violation are destroyed within one year of final disposition of proceedings.
    Mass Department of Transportation will develop regulations if the House and Senate pass the bill.

    Hope this helps clear up any questions.
    -Jason Faller
    -Legislative Intern, Office of Rep. Will Brownsberger

  4. Summary: The evidence is clear – Red Light Cameras are a dangerous way for communities to make up the budget shortfall and pose a threat to public safety. It’s wrong of the Governor and the Legislature to “pass the buck” on this, making it a local issue. Keep the ban on Red light cameras in place!

    Sure, it’s alluring to think you can set up your own “money machine” simply by signing up with American Traffic Solutions or one of the other vendors, but read the fine print: (1) they get a preponderance of the funds collected so (2) the machines need to be “productive” or the town is charged for them. How do you make a red-light camera “productive” – simple – you shorten the yellow-light period. The result — a statically significant increase in rear-end collisions from drivers, surprised by the short-yellow lights jamming on the breaks. The Governor’s proposal clears the way for this ill-advised policy, shifting responsibility to the local government, who may not be motivated by the safety of “passing commuters”.

    As Nancy states, this is “so wrong on so many levels” and anyone proposing or supporting such a proposal clearly just has not done their homework.

    Cameras do not prevent most intersection accidents.
    Intersection accidents are just that, accidents. Motorists do not casually drive through red lights. More likely, they do not see a given traffic light because they are distracted, impaired, or unfamiliar with their surroundings. Even the most flagrant of red-light violators will not drive blithely into a crowded intersection, against the light. Putting cameras on poles and taking pictures will not stop these kinds of accidents.

    Will makes a good point about problematic intersections, but there are real solutions that can improve safety in these situations. Generally speaking these solutions don’t even involve additional funding!

    See http://www.motorists.org/photoenforce/home/alternatives-to-red-light-cameras/
    for a list including details for:

    – Increasing the yellow-light time
    – Making traffic lights more visible
    – Retiming of Traffic Signals

    To fully understand how these devices only make things worse, please see
    http://www.motorists.org/photoenforce/home/studies/

    which lists sources to the following studies —

    Virginia Accidents Increased After Ticket Camera Installation

    A Long Term Study of Red-Light Cameras and Accidents
    The conclusion of this Australian study was that RLCs are not an effective countermeasure and that they can increase the number of rear end crashes.
    AAA Michigan Study Shows Cameras Aren’t Needed
    Red-Light-Running Behaviour at Red-Light Camera and Control Intersections
    Monash University study showing red-light cameras have no effect on reducing violations.
    A Detailed Investigation Of Crash Risk Reduction Resulting From Red-Light Cameras In Small Urban Areas
    A study prepared by the North Carolina A&T State University found that red-light cameras increased the number of accidents at intersections.

    Impact of Red-Light Camera Enforcement on Crash Experience – A Synthesis of Highway Practice
    A recent study by the Transportation Research Board (TRB) illustrates the lack of evidence supporting the effectiveness of red-light cameras.

    Evaluation of the Red-Light-Camera-Enforcement Pilot Project
    This report from Ontario, Canada’s Ministry of Transportation’s concluded that jurisdictions using photo enforcement experienced an overall increase in property damage and fatal and injury rear-end collisions.
    Development of Guidelines for Identifying and Treating Locations with a Red-Light-Running Problem
    This Texas Transportation Institute study highlights the efficacy of increasing yellow-light times. An extra second yielded a 40-percent reduction in collisions.

    Effect of Yellow-Interval Timing on Red-Light-Violation Frequency at Urban Intersections
    This study shows that an increase of 0.5 to 1.5 seconds in yellow-light duration will decrease the frequency of red-light running by at least 50 percent.

    Virginia DOT Study on Red-Light Cameras
    The Virginia Department of Transportation released a biased report in favor of the cameras that still documented an increase in accidents, including more rear-end collisions and injuries.

    Critique of IIHS 2001 Oxnard Study
    California Senate Committee on Privacy critiqued the Oxnard study. The results show that IIHS’s study is flawed on many levels.

    The Red-Light-Running Crisis: Is It Intentional?
    This report was prepared by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s staff. It looks at the problems of red-light cameras and how to really deal with traffic-light violations.

    Yellow-Light-Timing Myths
    Proponents of red light cameras claim that increasing the yellow light time is not a solution because motorists will adjust to the lengthened yellow light time. These studies prove the proponents are wrong.

    Driver Behavior Characteristics at Urban Signalized Intersections
    This study shows that providing adequate all-red clearance intervals can significantly impact intersection safety by reducing the probability of occurrence of right angle crashes, even if drivers run the red light.

    Misleading San Diego Report
    Although the report clearly credits the most significant reduction in violations to an increase in yellow time — a fact buried on page 78 — the report nonetheless credits these benefits to the red-light cameras everywhere else in the report, especially in the summary.

    Yellow Light Duration Impact On Driver Response
    This report from the Institute of Traffic Engineers Journal examines how drivers react to differing yellow light durations.

    University of South Florida Criticism of Oxnard Study
    University of South Florida researchers uncovered fundamental flaws in the first US study to claim red light cameras decrease accidents.

    1. This comment posted on behalf of Steve Miller. See his blog link further below:

      I’m sure that the governor’s suggestions to increase the use ofcamera’s to catch red light violators and automatically send a ticket, as is already done in NYC and lots of other cities, will be met with howls of protest — despite the proven fact that traffic-light violation cameras significantly reduce intersection violations and pedestrian injuries.

      Critics cite possible privacy violations and the possibility that the vehicle owner may not be the driver breaking the law. But neither argument has merit. Just as a landlord can be held responsible for the public nuisance created by his tenants, a car owner is responsible for the behavior of anyone to whom she willingly lends her vehicle. And breaking the law automatically cancels a person’s privacy rights.

      I take privacy very seriously, During the early 1990s I spent five years on the national board of Computer Professionals For Social Responsibility. This was when the Information Superhighway became the Internet and then the Web, and one of our core issues was technology-related privacy. But one of the things I learned is that in most public policy debates the issues get bizarrely reversed — we denounce things that provide real benefits while allowing things that can cause real harm.

      I’ve actually posted a long message about this titled “Privacy on the Street: Fighting the Wrong Enemy” on my blog “Transportation, Health, and Livable Communities” hosted at LivableStreets Alliance

  5. If I read those right the reason that the yellow light is shortened is to catch more (surprised) people going through the red light. The reason they do this, it seems, is because they put RLC’s in places with a low traffic volume or places that don’t usually have violators.
    The way to fix this would be to suggest to towns to put RLC’s only at intersections where there is a high traffic volume and a high number of previous traffic stops for running red lights. Towns need not shorten the yellow light, and doing so will be frowned upon.

    In my opinion there should be penalties for towns that shorten yellow lights for this purpose.

    -Jason Faller
    -Legislative Intern, Office of Rep. Will Brownsberger

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