State treasurer eyes new revenues for school construction  

State House News Service photo

State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg was sworn in to a second term Wednesday by her parents, Carol and Avram Goldberg, left.

BOSTON — After taking the oath of office in the newly renovated Senate Chamber on Wednesday for another four years, Treasurer Deborah Goldberg previewed a second term in which she plans to maintain and expand programs she said have been successful and seek new revenue sources and funding flexibility for school construction projects in Massachusetts.

"I said that I wanted the treasurer's office to help all Massachusetts residents achieve economic stability, security, and opportunity. I asked you all to join me on this journey and together we have achieved amazing results," Goldberg said after she was sworn in by her parents, Carol and Avram.

The treasurer called for lawmakers to increase "our funding flexibility" and to find additional revenue streams for the Massachusetts School Building Authority, especially "as our schools become older and older, and the cost of construction continues to increase."

In next year's state budget, Beacon Hill leaders have already set aside $917 million in sales tax revenues for the school building authority, but it appears Goldberg is angling for a larger appropriation.

"As long as we have buildings without any science labs — and I'm going to underline without any science labs – or overcrowding forces the use of hallways and gyms as classrooms, we are not meeting our kids' needs, nor our businesses' that require a trained workforce," Goldberg said. "We hope to be able to work with our legislative partners in increasing our funding flexibility and finding additional revenue streams."

The treasurer used her speech to recap her first term in office and when she did look ahead she urged a steady hand. When she did call upon the Legislature to do something — allow the Lottery to sell products online, increase funding for school construction or make a retirement plan available to non-profit employees — she did not delve deeply into the issues or apply much pressure to lawmakers.

The Brookline Democrat celebrated fiscal year 2017's record-setting $1.035 billion in profits from the Massachusetts Lottery and said her office "will need to be working with our legislative and retail partners" to ensure that the Lottery can continue to generate near $1 billion for local aid each year.

She did not explicitly say in her speech that the Lottery should be allowed to sell its current products online as New Hampshire has recently started doing, but said it is important to "continue the modernization" of the Lottery.

"The world has changed with fantasy sports, sports betting, casinos and online lottery in neighboring states," she said, repeating an observation she often made during her first term. "We do not want to go the way of Sears or Toys R Us."

As she did on the campaign trail, Goldberg touted the relative health of the state's Rainy Day Fund in her inaugural address, calling recent growth in the account "excellent progress" amid an uncertain global economy.

With the benefit of a surplus in fiscal year 2018, Massachusetts added to its Rainy Day Fund and pushed its balance north of $2 billion for the first time since fiscal 2008. Looking ahead, Goldberg on Wednesday called for the state to continue socking away money for the next economic downturn.

"It is critical to maintain stability through uncertain times by adhering to strict fiscal guidelines," she said. "The governor and I will be visiting with the rating agencies in New York this spring to communicate and reaffirm our state's commitment to our financially prudent policies."

Last month, the treasurer told lawmakers that she, Baker and Administration and Finance Secretary Michael Heffernan should visit the New York offices of credit rating agencies again – Goldberg and Baker took a similar trip in 2016 – to tout the state's progress with the stabilization fund and other fiscal policies.

S&P Global Ratings lowered its rating for Massachusetts bonds to AA from AA+ in June 2017, largely due to the state diverting money from the stabilization fund while the economy and tax revenues were growing.

Goldberg also called for the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board to "maintain the focus of our unique strategies," which she said have withstood volatility in the markets over the last four years and helped PRIM outperform its peer funds.

"It has grown by $10 billion through excellent investment performance and careful cost control, with a lower risk profile built to withstand variations in the market," Goldberg said Wednesday.

It's unclear how the pension fund fared in 2018; officials have said return results are not yet available.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Senate President Emerita Harriette Chandler and House Speaker Robert DeLeo attended Goldberg's noon swearing-in, and DeLeo praised the treasurer for her largely behind-the-scenes work on financial issues.

"When you take a look in terms of the economic situation of what goes on here in the commonwealth, this lady plays an extremely important part in making sure, you know, that we continue to grow and that we continue to grow at a forward pace very well," DeLeo said. "And we are doing that."

Goldberg defeated Republican Keiko Orrall in the November election, winning about 68 percent of the statewide vote en route to a second four-year term.

Recommended for you