Musings on the House budget, the SOA, families, and the state’s long-term fiscal health

The Gateway Cities Journal

Musings on the House budget, the SOA, families, and the state’s long-term fiscal health

Baseball at Fenway, runners arriving for the Marathon, with these sure signals that Beacon Hill is moving into full budgeting mode, out came the eagerly anticipated FY 2025 budget from the House Ways and Means committee last Wednesday. The bill gives us a first glimpse at how the legislature will respond to the state’s declining revenue situation. With waning federal support and significant price pressures on school district budgets, the fate of anticipated increases in education aid under the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) will be getting extra scrutiny this year.

The House budget increases Chapter 70 aid above levels required by the SOA. However, fully factoring inflation, the funding levels fall below what the SOA called for based on the estimated costs of educating students back in the 2010s. Post-pandemic, students now have greater needs that school districts must meet.

It is difficult both politically and practically to find sufficient funds to cover rising education costs while addressing housing and other urgent matters at the same time. The high degree of inequality in Massachusetts makes significant redistribution necessary. Legislators are struggling to find the right balance with tax cuts adopted last year offsetting much of the additional revenue gained by the Question One surtax on high-income earners.

Business-backed groups argued against Question One and supported the tax cuts. They believed high tax rates would push wealthy residents out of state, costing Massachusetts revenue in the long run. They point to outmigration data as evidence that these concerns were justified.

New analysis from Boston Indicators shows a very steep increase in outmigration after the pandemic. With so many people leaving, it’s difficult to say whether this outmigration includes a significant number of high earners seeking to avoid the tax. We do know that the exodus has been particularly sharp among middle-income households and households age 25 to 44. Losing this broad swath of taxpayers with many years of earnings potential ahead of them is a daunting prospect. It’s especially concerning for the state’s long-term fiscal outlook, given that this age bracket is the most likely to have children.

Gateway Cities should be a central component of our strategy to keep middle-income families in Massachusetts. These communities are great places to live and raise children. And they are eager to build more housing to support growth without displacement. But filling these new homes with middle-income families will mean improving Gateway City schools and ensuring that these school districts are economically-integrated and welcoming to all.

As we argued back in 2018, the SOA investment should put Massachusetts on a strong path to make this happen.

Legislators are working hard to honor their commitment to fund the SOA. But we’ve seen little interest from state education policy leaders when it comes to integration. The glaring lack of plans and strategies to promote integration has profound macroeconomic implications. If we don’t make gains increasing the economic diversity of Gateway City districts soon, it will be difficult to sustain this progressive formula, both fiscally and politically, over the long term.


Housing and Economic Development

Ben Forman joins The Horse Race to talk about the need for major economic development investments in the Pioneer Valley.

MassHousing closes on a $5 million financing package that will create 18 new condominiums in Fall River.

NeighborWorks holds a groundbreaking for its Montello St. project in Brockton.

Chelsea adds 66 affordable apartments.

Even with work permits, migrants in shelters struggle to find self-sustaining jobs.

Is small-scale manufacturing the next new thing for downtown storefronts?



Haverhill city council takes up school committee’s call for more state public school aid.

The state is exploring the idea of moving Whittier Tech, the regional vocational high school in Haverhill, to the campus across town of Northern Essex Community College following a January vote of communities the school services to reject a $444 million plan for a new stand-alone voc school.

New Bedford Light takes an in depth look at why charter schools struggle to enroll homeless students and the fate of corrective legislation.

Members of the Springfield school committee boycott a recent meeting that had the search for a new superintendent on the agenda.



South Coast Rail test trains will begin running this spring.

Summer start to South Coast Rail looks ‘unlikely’ — but there’s one bright spot for riders.

Worcester is considering extending its free bus fare initiative for a fifth year.

Is proximity more important than mobility?


Communities and People

The Boston Globe follows Nereida Badillo’s journey to become a Holyoke homeowner.



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