Massachusetts’ financial future brighter than expected thanks to vaccine rollout, budget watchdogs say

Economists offered a rosier financial picture for the state’s upcoming budget cycle than initially projected, but warned it’s based on a smooth vaccine rollout and a stimulus deal.
“Predicting future revenue figures can be a challenging process in normal times, as we all know, but in a year dominated by the havoc and uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year will make it even all the more daunting,” House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz said during a virtual revenue hearing on Tuesday.
Experts agreed tax revenue collections will rise next year, but said just how much the Bay State’s decimated economy rebounds depends on a variety of factors.
Estimates on tax revenues to be collected during the fiscal year that begins next July ranged from a low of $29.6 billion to a high of $31.9 billion.
The Legislature and administration must agree on a revenue estimate by early January. Baker will use that figure to build the fiscal 2022 budget, which he must file before the end of next month.
The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation projected $29.73 billion in tax revenues in fiscal 2022, with President Eileen McAnneny laying out the reasoning behind her “cautiously optimistic” scenario.
In a seven-page report, McAnneny said the MTF projections assume 70% of the population will be vaccinated by spring and warned a failure by Congress to deliver another round of coronavirus relief could elongate the recession. MTF’s forecast assumes Congress will pass a $1.5 trillion stimulus.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel with the development of a vaccine, but a lot of uncertainty remains,” McAnneny said.
David Tuerck of Beacon Hill Institute said his organization’s $29.77 billion projection doesn’t assume a stimulus, but warned more complete business shutdowns could “undermine the accuracy” of his projections.
Gov. Charlie Baker threatened on Tuesday tougher restrictions should surging COVID-19 cases continue to strain hospitals.
It’s the same pandemic uncertainty that stymied the budget process in the current fiscal year, with lawmakers finally delivering a budget bill to Gov. Charlie Baker last week — seven months behind schedule.
Lawmakers opted to push off the vote on a final spending plan in an effort to get a grip on the full scope of the economic fallout of widespread business shutdowns. Last year saw the sharpest economic decline in a single quarter in state history in April, May and June as the pandemic took hold in Massachusetts, shuttering restaurants, offices and schools.
Herald wire services contributed to this report.

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