Massachusetts Teachers Association applauds public education investments, condemns tax cuts for wealthy in state assembly budget proposal

Goff Justice announces a $20 million expansion of nursing education programs

The Massachusetts house released its $56.2 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2024 this week. It’s slightly higher than the $55.5 billion budget Democratic Gov. Maura Healy introduced in March, the first since her election in November. Then, the Senate will present its own draft of the spending plan before crafting a final compromise bill before the start of the new fiscal year on July 1. As the state budget takes another step forward, organized labor groups interact. Max Page is Professor of Architecture at UMass Amherst and President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. It is the largest federation in New England, and its 115,000 public school, college, and university teachers represent more than 400 local residents throughout Massachusetts. He broke down the MTA’s assessment of the House budget plan in today’s conversation with WAMC.

Page: Overall, this budget — both the governor’s proposal and the house in general — shows the impact of our massive victory over the Fair Equity Amendment, or so-called millionaire’s tax, from last fall. There is big, big $1 billion worth of new investment in public transportation, roads and bridges, but also in public education, from pre-kindergarten through higher education. So, in general, we’re already seeing the impact of that historic victory. There are many concerns that we have, both with how the money will be allocated and some kind of amazing decision by both the Governor and the House of Representatives to move forward with hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts for some of the state’s wealthiest residents. .

WAM: Let’s go over the strengths of the budget. When we talk about fare share adjustment money being invested in public education, what are the highlights as you see it?

What is remarkable is that they fully funded – I should say both the Governor and the House of Representatives – proposed fully funding the Student Opportunities Act. This was our historic bill that the MTA worked so hard for in 2019 and that, every year, brings more money to our public schools, especially the areas most in need, like Pittsfield, North Adams, Springfield, Holyoke, and the like. And that’s fully funded, and in fact at its highest level this year in both the governor’s and the House’s budget, which is fantastic. In addition, the legislature elected to spend $1 billion — “billion,” billion dollars in projected fair share proceeds. I will say that the MTA thinks there’s probably close to $2 billion available, but they’ve been cautious. So, what we’re seeing is additional money, new money for public education and transportation that’s reflected in both budgets, and I would expect that to be reflected in the Senate as well. So this is additional money for green buildings for our schools, student support, student scholarships for college, major investments in the MBTA, but also roads and bridges and other transportation systems. So it’s great to see.

Now the disappointments, let’s talk about that. What do you want to change about this budget as it continues to move forward into reality?

What we want to see first is that the Senate does not move forward with these regressive tax cuts, which means tax cuts for the wealthiest residents of the Commonwealth. We have a very unequal situation, and part of the Fall Fair Participation Amendment campaign for the millionaire tax was about introducing more tax equity, where we fix an issue where the rich were paying a much lower percentage of their income in taxes then were the poorest people in the Commonwealth. This is completely upside down. Unfortunately, the governor and the House of Representatives chose to offer these big tax cuts to some of the wealthiest people. So, we’re hoping to push some of that back because it just doesn’t make sense when there’s a lot of great needs out there. So this is a huge disappointment. I will say that I teach at UMass Amherst, the MTA is represented by 18,000 public higher education staff and faculty, and we are very pleased with the amount of money the Governor was proposing to invest in public higher education. The House is stepping back from that and investing it in other areas, some of which are very good, but we think both should be covered—namely, a new investment in K-12 and a significant investment in high-quality, debt-free public higher education.