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Widmer Breaks Down State Budget For Crowd in Stoneham

The 30-minute session, featuring guest speaker Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer, provided an overview regarding various topics on the Commonwealth's fiscal 2012 budget.

As budget season approaches, more than two dozen local residents and elected officials went to on Thursday night to hear one of the Commonwealth’s experts on the state budget to offer advice on what to expect from Beacon Hill this year.

After a brief introduction from Stoneham’s state legislative delegation, Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation President Michael Widmer discussed a variety of topics regarding the state’s budget. He noted that it’s beginning to rebound from the recession but faces massive challenges with replacing revenue provided by Federal stimulus funds, particularly regarding healthcare costs, which make up one-third of Massachusetts’ projected $30 billion budget for fiscal 2012.

For Widmer, this forum was similar to many of the other open discussions he’s had with local elected officials and residents across the state, which have gotten small crowds and later notoriety from public access channels. He said that’s due in part to the weather, but also the scope of the topic material.

“These issues are complicated and I try to provide the context so people understand, because they hear a lot of bits and pieces,” Widmer said. “It’s not always easy to understand, but I always enjoy explaining these things when people ask me to.”

The session was put on jointly by Stoneham’s legislative delegation and the Stoneham School Committee, who were pleased with the information provided that will help them with their difficult tasks over the next few months.

“I think it went really well, Michael Widmer is a well respected expert in fiscal budgets," said School Committee Chairperson Shelly MacNeill. "He’s been doing this a long time and I think he brings a realistic and sensible approach at looking at budgets in our state.

“He’s also very well versed in municipal budgets, and I thought he had a very well balanced presentation.”

Additionally, the talk also attracted elected officials from other nearby municipalities, including .

“Mr. Widmer is very well known in his field, and he always has fascinating things to say,” Driscoll said. “Whenever I hear him talk, I always feel like I’ve learned something to cogitate on that we can use in the City of Melrose.”

Widmer’s talk attracted only two questions, one of which came from Stoneham resident Randy Perillo.

Perillo was pleased with the clarity of the presentation and the expertise provided by Widmer, and would have liked more information available comparable to what he heard throughout the night.

“With such challenges we face as a state such as the budget deficit (Widmer) mentioned, it really opens up the debate as to why more information isn’t being sent forth, not just from Beacon Hill,” Perillo said. “I almost wish the presentation had been longer, and I wish it had been more detailed, not to the point where the average person couldn’t understand it, but there were more factors here that I think deserved more explanation.”

Copies of the presentation can be obtained in person from the office at 53 Central Street.

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