Ed Spending in New England: The Outlook

Education spending for each of the New England states in fiscal 2011 will likely be affected by the national recession, with four of the six New England states already forced to make budget cuts to education in fiscal 2010, according to a new report by the National Governors Association (NGA).

The NGA published its most recent twice-annual Fiscal Survey of States last week, reporting on the fiscal data and estimates from each of the 50 states, including projections based on 2011 recommended state budgets.

Only New Hampshire and Vermont did not make mid-year budget cuts to higher education, community college, university systems or their state departments of education, according to the report. Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island made cuts to both higher education and K-12 education in fiscal 2010, according the NGA report.

Overall, the report suggests that state fiscal conditions are continuing to deteriorate despite the nation’s improvements in economic health. The NGA notes that general fund expenditures declined 6.8% in fiscal 2010, while governors’ recommended budgets for fiscal 2011 called for a 3.6% increase in general fund expenditures nationwide. This increase is largely in response to declining Recovery Act funding, according to a news release from the NGA. Despite the proposed 3.6% increase in overall general fund spending, fiscal 2011 spending will fall roughly $52 billion lower than fiscal 2008 (a 7.6% decline) using 2008 as a benchmark for economic health prior to the economic recession.

Nationally, 13 states recommended lower general fund expenditures, compared with their 2010 budgets, while 40 states estimate they will lower general fund expenditures in fiscal 2010, compared to fiscal year 2009.  Already, 40 states have made mid-year budget cuts to their fiscal 2010 budgets totaling $22 billion. NGA projects that states will continue to face budgetary challenges until fiscal 2013, when state revenues are anticipated to return to 2008 levels of economic health.

Fiscal 2011 will likely present additional program cuts to education for several New England states. Maine is projected to make budget cuts to K-12 education in 2011, while Connecticut will reportedly make cuts to higher education. Rhode Island is projected to make budget cuts to both K-12 and higher education in 2011, and proposes to increase higher education-related fees in 2011 as a measure to reduce or eliminate 2011 budget gaps. Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are presently do not have plans to cut education spending in their projected 2011 state budgets.

Proposed expenditure changes for New England states will vary in fiscal 2011: Connecticut will seek to increase general fund spending by 1%; Maine will seek to reduce general fund spending by 6.2%; Massachusetts will increase spending by 3%; New Hampshire, by 6.7%, Rhode Island, by 0.1%; and Vermont, by 3.5% according to projections from each state.


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