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.
I do care about animals and I don’t know what their fates would be without the $2.5 million but I am more concerned about our elderly citizens. Can you explain how they fell below the zoos on the priority list?
Even though I advocated for additional elder services spending, I don’t feel that it is remotely fair to suggest that seniors were treated as a low priority. We are spending roughly $300 million on elder services and $2 billion on elder health care. By contrast, the zoos, even after this restoration, are receiving only $5 million, a 30% cut from last year, with a mandate to achieve even greater independence in future years. Besides, senior citizens go to the zoo too!
I noticed many of the line items in the supplementary budget were to restore funding to avoid employee layoffs. Of particular interest to me was line item 0000-9600 which funds the operations of the House of Representatives ($1mil). How many staffers have been laid off? What is the head count of administrative personnel associated with the House of Reps operation?
Fair questions, Spencer. I have not seen answers to them myself. However, I can report that even with the additional money in the supp budget, planned expenditures for the operations of the House in 2010 are down 23% from 2009 and are actually down 6% from 2006.
I am not satisfied with your response. Detailed answers to my questions would indicate you have a good knowledge of what your department’s personnel expenses are. Pardon my analogy but this is akin to a business operator being unable to tell me how many people he has employed. Our state government should be shedding payroll expense before making cuts to programs considered worthwhile by your constituents (see elder services blog above).
I have a very good knowledge of the part I personally manage! I have exactly one aide who makes in the low 30s and is worth several times that.
I think you would agree you are responsible for your vote. You voted to restore funding to House, the Senate and the Trial Court to avoid layoffs. What is the criteria you used to make that decision? If you are able to conduct your daily business with the assistance of a single aide, doesn’t it make sense to ask the question: “Does Rep. Kaufman require a staff of 5 which costs the taxpayers an estimated $234,000 per year in payroll and benefits?” There has been much rhetoric about “shared sacrifice” and “reform” but once again the actions of our elected officials speak to patronage and business as usual.
Rep. Kauffman is a committee chair. I think that the overall course of action this spring outlined in the series of pieces under http://willbrownsberger.com/index.php/archives/category/reform-budget represents real change. And the legislature’s budget is down considerably. I’ll see what information I can get on how that translates into headcount.
Re: Rep Kaufman-you must be kidding me! He’s a committee chair and that entitles him to hire 4 more staff members in addition to his own financial stipend? Has it been that long since you’ve worked in the real world? Who in the private sector hasn’t spear headed projects and committees without expectation of 4 hires and a pay increase to boot? You guys kill me. You feign empathy, vote self interest and think nobody is watching you do it.
I agree with Spencer. This speaks to the big Govt small Govt debate. Everyone in the real world is being told to do more with less but in the unreal world of politics they make token and veiled changes that do not add up to much so they can keep the cushy gig. Two words: term limits!
Term Limits would be great, But don’t hold your breathe. You see the Legislature would NEVER aprove it, and even if it was put on the ballot they would ignore the results. They pass legislation in the wee hours of the night that exempt them from any kind of accountablility to the tax payer. The Gov in this state is an empty suite, Not just Deval but any of the previous Rep Gov because Beacon Hill has a veto proof majority and Until the Massachusetts tax payers wake up and vote to restore equilibrium we are at there mercy.
For the latest twist, see today’s Globe. The Governor kept his veto low profile — releasing it late on Friday and not posting the details in any convenient location on his website.
Here’s a link to the veto message (obtained in hard copy form from the clerk’s office) — can’t quarrel with some of the vetos, but especially disappointed to see the cuts to housing and elder care.
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