Just when we thought that we were out of the woods with regard to local aid reductions by the state, local officials across the Commonwealth were notified last week that there will be almost $9 million less in discretionary state aid available to cities and towns for the current fiscal year. However, according to House Minority Leader Brad Jones, Jr., there is almost another $28 million in additional cutbacks of state aid for school services that have yet to be figured into municipal budgets.
These two numbers spell trouble for Boston totaling almost $4M. We agree that the state cannot, and should not, run a deficit — and currently, the State is in the red by more than $500 million and possibly growing. We also agree that it is up to local taxpayers ultimately to decide whether various city services are worth keeping in any budget, if the money for those services is not available from the state.
However, what we question is the various reports of cronyism going on at the state level. One only has to take a look at the State Highway Safety Director with a salary of $75,000 who resigned after it was disclosed that her driving record was littered with fines and infractions. Also we have to question whether this was the time to grant pay raises to State House staff, while other members of state agencies, such as human services workers, had their potential pay raises frozen. For the record, both sets of workers have not had any pay raises since 2008.
No one denies that everyone deserves to make a pay check sufficient to sustain a decent set of living standards. No one will deny that the state needs to pay a decent salary to keep a good worker. And certainly, in the context of a $30-plus billion state budget, these pay raises are insignificant.
However, many of our citizens in the private sector are facing similar decisions. The recent disclosure of a looming fiscal crisis in the state budget certainly raises questions about the timing of these pay raises. In the private sector, a company that is in the red by hundreds of millions of dollars would not grant pay raises to a select few. Why should state government be any different?