Tech Issues Derail Massachusetts State Budget Roundtable

The state budget roundtable that will offer a first look at what’s expected to be a colossal collapse in state tax revenues was postponed after officials failed to get the live stream technology functional.

by Erin Tiernan, Boston Herald / April 8, 2020
The chambers at Seattle City Hall sit nearly empty as the City Council meets remotely. (Alex Brown/The Pew Charitable Trusts/TNS) TNS

(TNS) — An attempt by the state Legislature to get a grip on just how dire the consequences of the coronavirus crisis will be on the state’s budget was stymied by technical difficulties on Tuesday when officials failed to get a live stream working.

The state budget roundtable that will offer a first look at what’s expected to be a colossal collapse in state tax revenues was postponed until next Tuesday, April 14 after officials failed to get the live stream technology rolling nearly a half-hour after the meeting’s scheduled 10 a.m. start time.

“Sorry folks,” House Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz tweeted just after officials made the game-time decision to delay, saying he “felt it was important for (the) public to see this in real time.”

It’s an embarrassing snafu for the Legislature as it tries to sort out how to conduct business remotely in a time when people are discouraged from congregating in tightly packed State House chambers in the interest of social distancing.

Tuesday’s round table was supposed to include the likes of Eric Rosengren, the Boston Federal Reserve president, state Treasurer Deborah B. Goldberg, jbudget writers from the Joint ways and Means committee and members of Gov. Charlie Baker’s Administration and Finance department who might have been able to shed some light on just how dire the state’s budget circumstances will be as coronavirus crisis pandemic sweeps across the state.

The state’s economy has ground to a halt amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Workers are being laid off in record numbers and thousands of businesses have been forced to close, unable to carry on as state and public health officials ban gatherings over 10 people. A stay-at-home advisory has been issued for everyone except those fighting the pandemic on the front lines.

The public projections so far are bleak. Annual revenue shortfalls could stretch to $5 billion or $6 billion, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center estimated.

Baker at a Monday press conference said he expects the effects of the pandemic to impact at least the next two budget cycles, but said the effects are not yet evident in state tax revenue figures — noting March numbers came in ahead of the projections.

“We’re all kind of scratching our heads about what the last three months of this year are going to look like and what the beginning of next year is gonna look like.”

A report published last week by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation concluded the state would “suffer a greater impact from the pandemic than the country as a whole, suggesting that the state’s recovery would be steeper and longer than other parts of the country.”

 ©2020 the Boston Herald. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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