Monday, August 24, 2015

Massachusetts State Budget Resources

 The Massachusetts State Budget goes through a number of steps before being passed into law. In the middle of July, a number of patrons called the reference desk wondering about updates on the Fiscal Year 2016 Budget and where to find information regarding what stage it was at, how it compared to past budgets and where to find the recommendations from the Ways and Means Committees.  Since the budget must go through the House, Senate, committees and Governor, and is often changed with recommendations, amendments and vetoes, it can be hard to keep track of where we fall in the budget writing cycle.  Fortunately, there are a number of resources available both online and in the State Library to help you better follow and understand the General Appropriations Act of this fiscal year and those that came before it.

First there is the State Budget website through The Official Website of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This site doesn’t just lead you through the current budget process  but also includes links to corresponding documents and budget information going back to 2007. There is also a link to a summary break down of specific government areas from Fiscal year 2013 to the current fiscal year, allowing you to track spending within a specific subject you may be interested in like education or health care.  There are also pages devoted to the budget timeline, terminology, and agencies aiding in financial oversight and management of the budget.

Another resource is the State Legislature site which has a special section devoted to the State Budget. What stands out about this site is that it breaks down the Senate and House Ways and Means recommendations going back to 2012. The full text of their budgets, amendments and conference reports are available along with final budgets and bill numbers. These bill numbers can be quite helpful as the legislature’s site also lets you search Bills as well as Acts and Resolves.

Finally, The State Library assembled a quick outline to the State Budget Process to help with your research. We have also gathered all the House 1 (the Governor’s Recommendations) going back to 1939 in one area of our main reading room. For some of our more recent years, the House and Senate Committee on Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are also available in this section. These are grouped together as ready reference for our patrons hoping to quickly look up early stages of the past budgets. For recent budgets, one of the best resources is the bill tracking service MassTrac. The State Library subscribes to MassTrac because it combines bill history, text, reports, press releases, news articles, votes, debate transcript and much more in one place so that our patrons easily have access to all this information in one place. MassTrac can be incredibly helpful to someone who is looking for all the most up to date information regarding the Budget.

If you are interested in using the library’s resources to research upcoming, current or past budgets visit our website or the Massachusetts State Library in room 341 of the State House, Monday through Friday 9-5.

Stephanie Turnbull
Reference Department