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May 20, 2013

Tarr wary of Senate budget plan revenues

BOSTON — The state Senate’s budget chief is describing differences between the House and Senate spending plans for fiscal 2014 as “incremental.”

But a quick review of the bill shows the branches taking different paths on education and welfare issues. And Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, notes that the Senate plan “rejects once again the massive tax and spend measures that have been advocated by Gov. Patrick,” he said. He remains concerned about the added revenue measures that are included.

The $33.9 billion Senate budget proposal scrapped several significant policy proposals touted by House leaders intended to improve oversight and accountability over early education and the public welfare system.

And while making significant new investments in public education, elder home care and transitional housing assistance, the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s budget proposal also took a less aggressive approach than the House toward increasing funding for the University of Massachusetts and other higher education institutions, potentially putting tuition and fees hikes for the next school year back on the table.

All of the issues are likely to come into play this week when the Senate opens debate on the fiscal 2014 budget plan.

“I’m not saying that anybody ignored any of those things, but the Senate president has got a comprehensive welfare reform piece that she is drafting, working on, that will be all encompassing,” Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer said.

“In order to put our state on a steady path toward economic prosperity and future balanced budgets,” said Tarr, “we need to ensure that the spending proposed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee can be sustained without continuing to resort to one-time fixes and burdening struggling household budgets with more taxes.

“The Senate Ways and Means budget makes a notable effort to reduce spending in many accounts,” he added. “Yet, in responding to yet another sizable budget gap, today’s proposal relies on a combination of over $627 million from one-time revenue sources and $450 million in tax increases, and that’s on top of the millions of dollars in additional tax increases that have been approved in recent years, including a $900 million increase in the sales tax implemented in 2009.”

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