Kaufman touts METCO and revenue reform initiatives

(BOSTON) – It was a good week for many of Representative Jay Kaufman’s priorities. A special commission he championed issued its report promoting major tax reforms, and he joined colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing a balanced FY ’13 budget. Both were aimed at increasing government efficiency, promoting transparency, and preserving essential services across the Commonwealth. The budget, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, closes a projected $790 million budget gap through adjustments to state spending, one-time revenues, and a $400 million withdrawal from the state’s rainy day fund. The commission’s report foresees a first-ever critical review of the “Tax Expenditure Budget,” the collection of tax breaks and exemptions that, although largely invisible and unexamined, complicates and compromised state tax collections. Massachusetts tax revenues equal approximately $22 billion annually, while the TEB represents more than this – $26 billion – in tax breaks.

“Thanks to such sound fiscal management, Standard and Poor’s recently increased Massachusetts’ bond rating from AA to AA+, and this past week’s actions further justify our richly-deserved reputation for setting the standard for “best practices” among the states,” Kaufman stated. “I am also thrilled to have helped lead an effort to examine – for the first time ever – the metrics behind the many exclusions to our state tax system. Up until now, there has been no deliberative process as to how and why potential state revenue gets foregone. The public deserves to know the rationale and the return on investment for each and every tax dollar, credit, deduction, and exemption.”

Additionally, the House of Representatives, during its annual budget debate, approved a measure to greatly expand the number of state government entities that are listed on the Commonwealth’s searchable website. This information, available at www.mass.gov, includes a comprehensive detailed list of most state government spending, commonly known as “Open Checkbook” level accounting. The website covers all state agencies and will now be expanded to include the many quasi-publics (e.g. MBTA, Massport, state colleges and universities) that provide taxpayer-funded public services. With this expansion, the three-year effort that Kaufman launched three years ago to expand budget transparency will be complete.

Representative Kaufman again led the legislative fight to support the METCO program, and this year secured an increase in funding for this racial desegregation program after years of level funding. Kaufman also helped secure passage of an amendment to improve the Community Preservation Act, giving additional state matching funds to municipalities and broadening the types of projects that can be funded under this program to encourage historic preservation, open space acquisition and affordable housing.