On Tuesday, February 3, 2015, Governor Baker proposed more than $500 million in emergency cuts to address a significant mid-year state budget deficit. Of these cuts, $140 million are automatic (so called “9C” cuts) and do not require approval by the legislature. The Department of Public Health received $3.5 million in funding cuts, adding to the $3 million in emergency cuts made by Governor Patrick in November. Several line items that fund core public health infrastructure were cut. We are particularly troubled by a $1 million cut to the State Public Health Laboratory and Communicable Disease Control line item, which supports testing, training, and response to communicable diseases and other threats. These are essential services which we all rely on to protect the health of our communities. Other infrastructure accounts that received cuts include Critical Operations and Essentials Services, Food Protection Retained Revenue, and Health Care Quality and Control. Together, these programs provide services and protections that each of us rely on every day, and these cuts will exacerbate the effects of chronic underfunding.
We expect Governor Baker’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2016 to be announced in early March. According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, we face a preliminary budget gap of more than $1 billion heading into the next fiscal year. This gap is driven partially by the need to pay for new automatic tax cuts, recently enacted business tax cuts, and inflation-related cost growth. For a preview of the FY 2016 budget from MassBudget, click here.