Potential Bump in Local Aid May Not Make Final State Budget
Peabody could see more state money if legislators approve the Fiscal 2014 budget proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick, but that's not a given at this point.
Within the ambitious state budget proposed by Gov. Deval Patrick last week, which seeks to focus on education and transportation funding, Peabody is slated to get a 2 percent increase in state aid.
State Rep. Ted Speliotis (D-Danvers), who also represents West Peabody, called it a "good bump," but also warned that it may be a "tease" from Patrick, who is hoping to get legislators to approve a proposed increase in the income tax and so-called "sin taxes" on candy and cigarettes.
Given the still sluggish state of the economy and job growth, he argues now is not the right time to raise taxes.
New state Sen. Joan Lovely briefly addressed the proposed budget on Friday at a forum of North Shore small business owners. She was noncommittal in her remarks, saying the legislature will be reviewing the spending plan in the coming months.
"Governor Patrick has rolled out a very aggressive plan with a lot of increase in new tax revenue to pay for the budget," she said. "Over the next few months we will start to debate that and try to figure that out."
"It's a real mix of policy that he's putting together to try to increase Chapter 70 funds...that is very important not only to the governor, but to myself and the legislature," Lovely said.
Peabody may only be getting a 2 percent bump ($525,000 split evenly between education and general government), but Danvers is potentially slated for a 14 percent increase of $1.15 million in state aid (most of that is in education aid in relation to homeless students).
Speliotis welcomed the numbers in Patrick's budget, but also warned that it's just the first step in the budget process, which will run into the summer before a final budget is reached.
"This is step one in the budget process," he said. "There's a chance we could level fund (local aid) and it would mean nothing."
Speliotis said he does not support the new taxes proposed in Patrick's budget. While he said the income tax is the "fairest tax we have," he noted the state is still coming out of a recession.
"I think it sends the wrong message right now to be looking at taxes," he said.
Patrick has proposed an increase in the income tax along with a drop in the sales tax. Speliotis said he would like to see more of a focus on ways to decrease the property tax.
"I would have been happier if he had looked at property taxes and not sales taxes," he said.
Unlike the late 2000s, Speliotis said, the budget does not need more revenue. And state aid to Danvers increased last year without any tax increases, Speliotis noted.
The proposed budget also includes "sin taxes" on soda, candy and cigarettes. Speliotis said similar "targeted taxes" were also proposed by Patrick last year.
"We rejected those last year and I would expect we would do it again," he said.
Taxes should be designed to fund government operation for things such as education and transportation and "not to punish human behavior," Speliotis said.