BOSTON – Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristen Lepore, Senate Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), and House Ways and Means Chair Brian S. Dempsey (D-Haverhill) today announced a consensus revenue forecast for Fiscal Year 2016 of $25.479 billion, representing 4.8% growth. The consensus joint revenue forecast represents the basis for which the Baker-Polito Administration, the House, and the Senate will use to make their Fiscal Year 2016 budget recommendations.
Pursuant to Section 5B of Chapter 29 of the General Laws, these three offices convene every year to establish a joint revenue forecast. In addition to meeting with each other, the Secretary and Chairs heard expert testimony last week from the Department of Revenue, the State Treasurer’s Office, the Public Employment Retirement Administration Commission, and local economists on tax revenue from area foundations and universities.
“This Consensus Revenue agreement reflects an important first step in building a responsible and balanced Fiscal Year 2016 budget,” said Chairman Dempsey. “The 4.8% growth reflects steady progress as the Commonwealth continues to recover from the Great Recession. I also want to highlight that this agreement includes a $1.972B transfer to the state pension fund, an increase of $179M from Fiscal Year 2015, and fully funds the updated schedule established last year.”
“This is a significant accomplishment that may not generate a ribbon cutting, but is another example of the decision making that has helped us achieve the highest bond ratings in the history of the Commonwealth.”
“The consensus revenue estimate for Fiscal Year 2016 shows a Massachusetts economy growing at a consistent pace,” said Secretary Lepore. “However, consistent revenue growth is only one half of the equation and it must be paired with realistic spending growth. I appreciate the opportunity to work collaboratively with both the House and Senate Chairs and look forward to continuing our relationship throughout the entire budget process.”
“While we are optimistic about future growth, this estimate takes into account an economy that is still recovering,” said Senator Spilka. “I look forward to moving ahead in the budget process to create a spending plan for Fiscal Year 2016 that is both fiscally responsible and compassionate. We must continue to find ways to lift all families and communities and build a stronger Commonwealth for all.”
The consensus revenue estimate for Fiscal Year 2016 is within the range of the forecasts laid out by experts at last week’s hearing. The projection also assumes that another income tax trigger will go into effect January 1, 2016, lowering the state’s personal income tax from 5.15% to 5.10%. Of the forecasted $25.479 billion, an estimated $1.387 billion is projected to come from taxes on capital gains. Approximately $300 million of that revenue would be deposited into the Stabilization Fund, pursuant to the Department of Revenue’s capital gains threshold of $1.087 billion for Fiscal Year 2016.
In addition, the three bodies reached agreement on statutorily required off-budget transfers that are mandated by current law.
$985.2 million for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)
$803.9million for the Massachusetts School Building Authority (SBA)
$22.4 million for the Workforce Training Fund
$1.972 billion transferred to the pension fund, which represents full funding of the scheduled pension contribution for Fiscal Year 2016.
The $1.972 billion transferred to the pension fund follows the updated funding schedule established by the previous Secretary in consultation with PERAC and the House and Senate that calls for a 10% increase in Fiscal Year 2016 in order to fully fund the pension liability by 2036.
After $3.783 billion in off-budget transfers and $300 million automatically transferred to the Stabilization Fund, the Secretary and Committee Chairs agree that $21.396 billion will be the maximum amount of tax revenue available for the budget in Fiscal Year 2016. All three bodies will base their respective budget recommendations on this projection.
Chapter 224 of the Acts of 2012 requires the Secretary and the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means to jointly develop a potential gross state product (PGSP) growth benchmark for the ensuing calendar year. The PGSP growth benchmark is to be used by the Health Policy Commission to establish the Commonwealth’s health care cost growth benchmark.
The three bodies have reached an agreement on a PGSP figure for calendar year 2016 of 3.6%, which is identical to the PGSP figure that was adopted for calendar year 2015. PGSP is a measure of the “full employment” output of the Commonwealth’s economy and reflects long-term trends in the economy rather than fluctuations due to the business cycle and, as a result, is likely to be fairly stable from year to year.