Rosenberg sees spending cuts ahead to ‘everything we love’

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STATE HOUSE — Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, describing sharply downgraded tax revenue estimates as “very sobering,” predicted the changes will lead to “painful” spending cuts or level funding for programs that lawmakers feel strongly about supporting.

“Tax revenues have gone soft and we just have to deal with it and it’s going to be very, very, very painful,” Rosenberg said during an interview on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio Thursday afternoon.

Without offering a timetable for a budget resolution eight days before the end of the fiscal year, the Senate leader explained that about one-third, or $350 million of the $1.1 billion in new revenue originally projected, is required to cover the “absolute, you gotta do these” spending items in the budget.

The Baker administration has predicted that as much as $750 million – the remaining portion of new revenue – might never materialize in fiscal 2017.

“The whole discretionary portion of the budget is what’s on the table, everything from the environment to the courts to public safety, state public safety not local public safety, public higher education, almost all the health and human services stuff outside Medicaid and that sort of stuff,” Rosenberg said.

Asked about Gov. Charlie Baker’s comments that he would prefer not to reduce local aid levels included in the House and Senate budgets, Rosenberg concurred. “Nobody wants to go into local aid. It destabilizes local government, education, public safety, so nobody ever wants to touch local aid,” he said.

With about 65 percent of state spending required to cover state and federal obligations, Rosenberg said the 35 percent of left over for discretionary spending means priorities for individual lawmakers will have to be cut.

“Most of the cuts have to come out of that portion of the budget, and that’s everything we love,” he said.

The House and Senate on Thursday sent a $5.3 billion budget bill to Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk, giving some breathing room to the six-member legislative conference committee struggling to assemble the fiscal 2017 spending plan in the face of the revised revenue projections. The temporary budget will keep state accounts funded through July, the first month of fiscal 2017.

— Written by Matt Murphy

Copyright State House News Service