Fiscal 2009 Budget Priorities

Friends,

I thought you might be interested to see the letter which I have recently
sent to Bob Deleo, the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee,
outlining my state budget priorities.

If you have thoughts or comments or questions, please do call with
feedback.

Please do not think that the letter is the last word from me on the
budget.

This letter is just one step in the House budget process.  We have received
the Governor’s proposed budget. The Ways and Means Committee in the process
of preparing a House Budget.  The Ways and Means chair seeks input from
House members before drafting the budget in two steps — through letters
like this one and through an individual meeting.

Then, after a draft of the House budget comes out, we have a second major
round of input — we send our proposals for amendments to Ways and Means
before debate begins.  Ways and Means can accept or negotiate amendments or
hold them for an actual floor fight.  Typically only a handful of amendments
end up being debated on the floor.

The final pass of input occurs after both the House and the Senate have
acted on the budget — there is a conference committee between the two
branches that has plenary power to make additional changes.  However,
changes at this stage are harder to accomplish.

You can reach me on my cell at 617-771-8274 or by e-mail at
willbrownsber@gmail.com.

All best,

/w.
===============================================
 February 11, 2008

Hon. Robert A. DeLeo
Chair, House Committee on Ways and Means

Dear Chairman DeLeo,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the House Budget.

I am particularly concerned about local aid — expanding the special
education circuit breaker (7061-0012), Chapter 70 (7061-0008), the METCO
program (7010-0012) and also protecting Lottery funding and Additional
Assistance.

I note that in the major aid programs — Chapter 70, Lottery and Additional
Assistance — Arlington is still below the aid level it received in 2002.  I
would like to see us find a way to bring Arlington and the handful of
similarly situated communities up to at least their 2002 levels.

I am also concerned about local property tax relief and I hope that, despite
the state’s budget predicament, we can make progress on some expansion of
the property tax circuit breaker.   I am prepared to support alternative
local revenue options, including the local option meals tax and the telecom
loophole closing.

Other top district priorities for me include:

   1. Operating and maintenance support for public housing (7004-9005)
   and the other basic housing programs under DHCD in the 7004-xxxx range
   (MRVP, RAFT, Soft Second Mortgage, Housing Consumer Education, etc.)
   2. Services that help seniors to remain in their homes — generally
   the programs under Elder affairs in the 9110 range, such as elder protective
   services (9110-1636), the COA formula grant (9110-9002), the home care
   related programs (9110-1630, 9110-1633, 9110-1500); also, the Community
   First initiative (4000-0650).
   3. The Office of Dam Safety (2800-0700), with a $200,000 earmark for
   the Amelia Earhart Dam on the Mystic River (this earmark appears in the
   Governor’s online system, but not in his printed budget).
   4. Programs that help immigrants become integrated in our society as
   citizens, including adult basic education (7035-0002) and the citizenship
   programs (4003-0122).

Additionally, I feel that the following programs are very worthwhile and
merit high prioritization:

   1. Programs that protect LGBT youths (7010-0005 and within 4590-0250),
   LGBT elders (9110-9002) and LGBT victims of domestic violence (within
   4513-1130).
   2. The Youth Build program (7061-9626).
   3. Teen pregnancy prevention (4530-9000) and comprehensive family
   planning (4513-1000) and teen parent support programs including the Young
   Parent GED program (4401-1000).
   4. The scheduled bar advocate compensation increase (0321-1510).
   5. The Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, 4512-0200 and 4512-0201.
   6. Low income child care, 3000-4060 and 4403-2120 (earmark for
   Playspace).
   7. The Mass Cultural Council (0640-0300) and the Cultural Facilities
   Fund (Outside Section 5).
   8. Proposed program to establish social worker loan forgiveness
   program as proposed by NASW under the Board of Higher Education.
   9. Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (0321-1600)
   10. Earmark of $6 million for “family preservation and reunification
   services” in line-item 4800-3800, DSS.

As serious as our budget gap is, I wish to express my opposition to one
cost-cutting strategy employed in the Governor’s budget.  I committed in my
2006 campaign to oppose additional increases in the public employee share of
health care if they are not bargained collectively.   I think it is fair to
bargain about reducing the share, or bargain about salary in contemplation
of a planned share reduction, but it seems backhanded to unilaterally
increase these shares after collective bargaining has recently been
concluded for a number of units.

I also wish to express my willingness to support necessary state revenue
increases —  either the corporate tax revenue increases proposed by the
Governor or other alternatives developed by the legislature.  I do agree
with those who feel that it is not responsible to count casino revenues
towards this year’s budget balance.

I support and respect the commitment of all the state’s leaders to making
health reform real — inclusive of all essential benefits, which I believe
should include dental care — and I understand that this progress comes with
a price.

I look forward to our scheduled meeting regarding the budget.

As always, I am very grateful for the time and consideration that you give
to the concerns and views of members.

Sincerely,

Will Brownsberger
State Representative, (617) 771-8274 (cell)

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Will Brownsberger
State Senator
2d Suffolk and Middlesex District