Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you for coming.
Today, I am signing the Fiscal Year 2014 budget into law. This is a 33.6 billion dollar spending plan that invests wisely in a number of key areas which the Legislature and I agree make our Commonwealth stronger and keep us moving forward. As in the past, Secretary Shor and the ANF staff will take you through the details -- as much detail as you'd like, right after I'm done, but let me note of couple of areas of particular significance at the outset.
Once again, we will fund the public schools through the chapter 70 formula at record levels. To my mind, nothing is more important than that.
We improve on our support for school transportation and special education as well.
Notably, in this budget we significantly increase support for our public universities and community colleges. That means no tuition and fee increases in the coming year. That also means we are on a path to better balancing the public's role in funding public higher education.
The budget includes an increase in funding for early education as well so that we can move more children off the waitlist and into quality preparatory opportunities.
I am also pleased that the budget contains strong support for initiatives to prevent youth violence, most notably continuing investments in summer jobs and our Safe and Successful Youth Initiative. These programs will provide our young people with the career and life skills they need to be successful, contributing members of their communities and our Commonwealth.
MassHealth and the Health Connector are well-positioned through this budget successfully to implement the Affordable Care Act in Massachusetts, and continue our national leadership in affordable, high-quality health care.
This budget also allows us to expand the network of Family Access Centers to provide one-stop access to services for our most vulnerable citizens, and includes new resources and tools to promote affordable housing, such as investments in rental vouchers and the creation of the new Housing Preservation and Stabilization Trust Fund.
And finally, thanks to the projected surplus from FY13, we look forward to funding successful job growth strategies such as the Life Sciences Initiative, new manufacturing initiatives and local capital projects.
That and much more of the budget reflect my priorities and the hard work of the Legislature to respond to our requests. For that I thank them.
There are a limited number of proposed expenditures that I do not support. They represent approximately $18 million of the $33.6 billion spending plan and I have taken action to reduce or eliminate these. Secretary Shor can take you through those details as well.
As you all know, this budget relies in part on new taxes in a separate piece of legislation, the Transportation Finance bill. And as you also know, that bill is still pending in the Legislature. Without the revenues from the Transportation Finance bill, this budget is out of balance. So, to bring the budget into balance, I have vetoed $417 million of spending in the budget, specifically $240 million from transportation and $177 million from unrestricted local aid. If and when we get a good transportation bill, I have proposed language in an accompanying supp budget to restore those funds automatically.
This action will come as no surprise. I have never signed a budget that was out of balance and I am not about to do so. Because it is so connected to the budget, I want to say something about the Transportation Finance bill and then I'd be happy to take any questions that you may have.
With the help of experts, planners and financial analysts, and the input of thousands of citizens, we identified the Commonwealth's transportation needs; what they are and how we should meet them. Meeting those needs requires $1.2 billion in additional annual investment. I proposed an increase in the income tax on the most fortunate as the central source of that new revenue.
The Legislative Leadership proposed a far smaller package, based mainly on the gas tax as well as increases in fees and tolls, and fares. That was disappointing and, I think, a missed opportunity. With the Legislature's support through transportation reform a few years ago, and through successive budgets and other legislation since, we have made a lot of progress fixing the mess created by the Big Dig. We need to take the final step now to restore funding for re-investment, especially in the communities outside of Boston. The original legislative proposal did not do that.
Then we worked with the conference committee to get a compromise that we all could live with, and many of our suggestions were incorporated. And while it does not fully meet the $1.2 billion need or do so by a means I would have preferred, I acknowledged then and I do now that we can still make a significant step forward in improving our transportation network with $800 million in new annual investment. But that number has to be real.
The central problem in the Transportation Finance bill is that the Legislature counts money from the western tolls that goes away when the tolls come down in a few short years. That is not a matter of opinion, that is a matter of fact: the Legislature's plan never reaches $800 million a year in transportation.
Some want us to trust that the tolls will stay up. Others are committed to having the tolls come down as scheduled. That level of uncertainty does not work in the bond markets when we go out to finance transportation projects. We need certainty -- because without it we will be back here in a few years, with our finances unfixed, regional projects undone, and the public's confidence in government further eroded. I have proposed one way to get certainty. I am open to others. But one way or another this has to be resolved.
So my "ask" to the Legislature is simply this: plug the hole in the Transportation bill, let's do it now and we can put that and this budget to rest and get back to the work of growing the economy.
As always, I thank the team at ANF, under Secretary Shor's and budget Director Emma Schulz's extraordinary leadership, along with the entire cabinet and their teams, for the careful and thoughtful way and work they have done on this budget. As I mentioned, they will take you through the budget in as much detail as you'd like.
Meanwhile, I am glad to take a couple of questions.