State cut billions in funding since 2009, study finds
Local aid hit hard during downturn
Massachusetts has been forced to cut $3 billion from its state budget and slash local aid to cities and towns by nearly 40 percent since the start of the national recession, according to an independent research group.
The report by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, which is being released today, compares state funding levels for the fiscal year ended July 1, 2009, to levels in the spending plan proposed by Governor Deval Patrick for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The report made adjustments for inflation.
“When you look at the budget, you see we have had very deep cuts, pretty much across the board,’’ said Noah Berger, president of the center. “There are no easy answers.’’
The reductions have been harsh on municipalities, which are probably looking at a fourth straight year of cuts. The report said the $834 million requested for unrestricted local aid in the governor’s fiscal 2012 spending plan represents a $528 million, or 38.8 percent, cut from fiscal 2009 levels.
Among other findings:
■ Higher education, funded at nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal 2009, is $953 million in the governor’s budget, a nearly 16 percent cut.
■ The nearly $507 million proposed in fiscal 2012 for K-12 education programs would be about $133 million, or 20.7 percent, lower.
■ Funding for children, youth, and family programs has been reduced $162 million, or 15.7 percent.
Some line items have risen, though. For example, funding for affordable housing programs has risen $12.4 million over the past three years. The report attributes that to increased the demand for emergency shelter.
The state’s share of costs for health insurance for state employees also continues to rise, with the governor proposing a 2.4 percent increase from current levels that would bring them to nearly $1.4 billion.
The comparisons made by the center were adjusted for the effects of inflation and are based only on proposed spending for the next fiscal year; the Legislature will act on its own version of the budget in the weeks ahead.
But even with tax revenues on the upswing, the Patrick administration and lawmakers have warned that further budget cuts are unavoidable.