Group predicts the state budget gap to near $1 billion

BOSTON (WWLP) – An analysis by the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation shows the state could be heading toward a very significant budget deficit. The group projects a $1 billion spending gap for the fiscal year that ends in June. That is more than triple what the state estimated last month.

“I’ve never seen a budget at this point in time, halfway through the fiscal year with a projected shortfall of the neighborhood of one billion dollars,” said MTF President Michael Widmer.

Researchers looked at public documents provided by the Patrick administration. The group predicts a shortfall of $288 million in revenues and $525 million in additional spending outside of the budget. Widmer also blames $180 million in temporary Medicaid costs triggered by the rocky launch of the Health Connector website.

The state Administration and Finance Secretary Glen Shor calls the report incorrect and misleading.

“There are a number of the flaws in the report, including misunderstandings of state programs, conjecture without good data, and a failure to look at the whole picture,” Shor wrote in an email to 22News.

One member of the state legislature’s budget committee said revenue shortfalls are common right before the holidays.

“This follows a similar pattern that we’ve seen in the past few years as revenues come in, they’re fairly slow in the first part of the fiscal year. Then they tend to pick up, especially when Christmas shopping is done,” said State Representative Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman).

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation stands by their report. Widmer said even if the state meets their revenue projections, the budget deficit would still near $1 billion. Filling the budget gap would be the first order of business for Governor-elect Charlie Baker after he is sworn in next month. He is already ruled out new taxes or cuts to local aid.

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