Massachusetts in the 1990s: The Role of State Government

by Alicia H. Munnell and Lynn E. Browne
January/Februrary 1991

Why another study of Massachusetts state government? In the past year, two Commissions established by the Governor have submitted reports, nonprofit citizen groups have come forth with lists of suggested reforms, and the legislature has had its own proposals. The goal of the study described here is quite different. Rather than offering solutions to the immediate budget problems, this study examines the major expenditures of state government and the forces that caused them to grow so rapidly in Massachusetts during the 1980s.

For the most part, the Commonwealth has been spending revenues on activities that many, if not most, voters would consider worthwhile. The difficulty is that, while strong revenue growth during the prosperous 1980s permitted the state to spend liberally while taxing conservatively, the economy has slowed and these divergent policies toward spending and taxes can no longer persist.

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