"I think it's fair to say it's a catastrophe"
The words coming out of Beacon Hill yesterday were beyond sobering.
If you are someone who believes government can play a positive role in people's lives, it's impossible to even get your head around the concepts and what is coming.
The problems are expected to be so widespread, the solutions so elusive, that the state may have to rethink the size of its commitment to big-ticket programs such as its landmark healthcare coverage plan, aid to cities and towns, and education funding, the specialists said at an emergency budget hearing convened yesterday by members of the state Senate.
Several economic specialists who testified advised state officials to prepare for at least four years of budget problems, foreshadowed by dire records: State revenues declined 35 percent this April over last year, the worst ever. The fall in state revenues for this year, projected to be $3 billion less than budgeted, will probably also be the steepest in state history.
"This is going to be the worst fiscal crisis in the state's history," said Michael J. Widmer, president of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation. "I think it's fair to say it's a catastrophe. That's not an overstatement."
We are looking at deep cuts in education, public safety, health care and the social safety net. Not to mention higher taxes of one sort or another, increased user fees and, in all likelihood, some form of state-approved gambling.
Painful, painful decisions are ahead. Thankfully, the man who runs the state treasury has the answer:
"We just have to make cuts," he said. "We're spending more money than we're bringing in. We have to stop spending."Who's grandstanding now?