Our Opinion: Trump's malicious cuts burden state taxpayers

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When a Massachusetts resident catches a bus, uses an EBT card to stretch the food budget or avails him- or herself of affordable health care, the last thing on that person's mind is the federal/state mix of public money that makes such an activity possible. That is the province of state officials like House Speaker Robert DeLeo, who along with Gov. Charlie Baker and the Senate President Karen Spilka must pay attention to what revenues are coming in from where as well as make sure the state lives within its means.

Speaker DeLeo, in an interview last Sunday on CBS-Boston, expressed concerns about federal funding cuts for programs that the Bay State has come to rely on, and the commonwealth's continued ability to take up the slack when the feds come up short. When President Trump, for example, made a point with his conservative base by cutting Title X funds to family planning clinics that provide abortion counseling, as well as other needed health services for women, the Legislature — as was the case last week — coughed up $8 million to enable such critical providers to continue in their essential role. The same is true of cuts to LIHEAP, the heating assistance program that helps disadvantaged residents get through the winter, to the tune of $30 million — which does not even cover the federal shortfall.

Massachusetts, although its economy is stronger than that of many if not most other states, is still only a state — and it cannot be expected to expand its safety net whenever the Trump administration, whether out of misplaced priorities or simple spite, turns down the spigot. Compounding the problem is that the Bay State is one of 10 "donor states" in the nation. This exclusive group pays more in federal taxes than it gets back, meaning that its states' taxpayers subsidize other states that don't pull their full weight. (Eight of the 10 donors states are "blue states" that voted Democratic in the last presidential election, drawing attention to the hypocrisy of "anti-government" red state politicians whose states consistently get more tax revenue from Washington D.C. than they pay in.) The reasons for this are complex, but a glaring one is that Massachusetts, like its regional kin in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, tends to have the greatest number of high-paying jobs concentrated within its borders.

Massachusetts and the other nine donor states need help from their congressional delegations to address this imbalance. The commonwealth has an ace in the hole in 1st Distict Rep. Richard Neal, whose chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee gives him power over taxation and revenue spending. With Mr. Neal as part of a coordinated effort between state officials and the rest of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, such cuts and the strains they put on the state budget may be reduced. While every state is facing federal cuts in one form or another, the 10 donor states bonded together carry considerable numerical clout.

Speaker DeLeo's concerns are no doubt contribute to a larger chorus of worried state officials across the country. The Massachusetts federal delegation should heed those concerns, and figure out ways to multiply its force by banding together with other donor states to ensure the continued flow of federal dollars for needed programs.

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