Over the last two days, the legislature has taken final action on the budget for Fiscal 2010.
Pending, as the week started, was the question of whether the legislature would override the Governor’s vetos before departing for the customary August break. On Tuesday, we overrode a number of non-money vetos — language issues. Today, rather than overriding the money vetos, we allowed the vetos to stand and passed a supplementary budget measure; this vehicle allowed for us to pass compromise amounts, rather than facing up-or-down veto decisions.
The main issue that we all wrestled with was whether we should be restoring any money at all to the budget given indicators of further revenue slide. After much listening and attention to the economic data, the leadership judgment, which most of us chose to support, was that we could afford to partially fund legal immigrant health care and restore a portion of the cuts made by the Governor. Essentially the read is that, while Fiscal 2011 is going to very tough and require further cuts, our budget for Fiscal 2010 is already well-enough trimmed to reflect expected revenue loss, and the veto adjustments are affordable.
In truth, all of the vetos taken together amount to less than 0.5% of the budget total. The amounts by which we are differing with the Governor are much smaller than the inevitable error terms in our revenue projections. So, in a sense, our judgments about affordability are more about perceptions of affordability than realities of affordability. It would never look right simply to adjust our carefully considered revenue projections upwards to balance the budget. In any event, the real economic decisions were made in the Spring as we struggled to meet a gap of over 15% between revenues (excluding stimulus funds) and costs of level services.
Here are the highlights of what we did this week:
- Funded $40 million for health insurance subsidies for impoverished legal immigrants. The original position of the House of Representatives in the budget process was for full funding. This is a compromise outcome, reflecting reduced available resources — only enough to provide a starting point for the administration to assemble a program, possibly including allocations of stimulus funds.
- Restored $2.5m out of $4m cut for the zoos.
- Restored $350k of $1.2m cut for disease prevention.
- Restored $1m for the RAFT housing transition program and $1m for local housing authority operating subsidies.
- Restored modest funding in several pieces for the trial court.
Highlights of things that we unfortunately were not able to do:
- Restore funding for the life sciences center
- Restore dedicated funding for the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (see note below re Senate amendment)
- Restore funding for elder care case management
The first two restorations — zoos and health — are the ones that I heard the most about from constituents. But there are a number of other important small adjustments that we were able to make. I’ve uploaded to this site the detailed background for those who wish to follow up on other items.
- Non-money language overrides
- Line item amounts from the supplementary budget
- Outside sections to the supplementary budget
- Full text of the supplementary budget
Note: According to the State House News service, there was a late amendment on the Senate side (with which the House concurred without debate): “Question came on a Ways and Means amendment to the supplemental budget. The amendment covers Department of Corrections, UMass and the secretary of education.” We’ll update this site with the content of that amendment as soon as we can.
The choice of a supplemental budget in lieu of veto overrides leaves the Governor the option of vetoing any of these appropriations and since we are unlikely to be in session in early August, his vetos will stand.