I have been contacted by a number of folks about the Quinn bill — the police education incentive — on both sides of the issue. Today the House voted to compromise and to fund the incentive, but at a reduced state contribution level. I supported the compromise.
Full statewide funding would have cost approximately $58 million. The Governor proposed funding of $42 million. The House Ways and Means Committee proposed elimination of state funding. A proposed amendment to the budget, which I co-sponsored, would have restored the full level of statewide funding.
Under the compromise approved tonight, the state will support the incentive at the $25 million level this year. Additionally, officers hired after July 1 will not be eligible for the Quinn incentive. Officers currently on the force who start educational programs by September 1 will be eligible for the full incentive achievable under the Quinn bill.
The immediate practical effect of this is a cut in one component of local aid, not a cut pay for officers in most communities. I am informed that in Belmont and Cambridge, collective bargaining agreements will preserve current officer pay levels including the full incentive amounts. I’m less clear about how officers in Arlington will be affected. The total state support last year was $320K in Arlington, $235K in Belmont and $1.4M in Cambridge. The local aid loss will work out to a little over half of these amounts.
In the context of a House budget which substantially restores other proposed local aid cuts, despite severe financial pressure, I supported the compromise. The vote was 101 to 42. Those voting against the compromise included people who felt the program should be completely abolished and others who felt it should be fully funded.
It is essential to bear in mind that the House budget is built on revenue estimates developed in December. State revenues have continued to float downward since then. Even with our vote in support of the sales tax, the Senate will have no choice but to make dramatic cuts from the House budget and the final conference committee budget may further cut both Quinn funding and general local aid.
My basic Quinn bill position stated prior to House debate
I feel that the Quinn bill makes an important statement about the value of education to policing and it’s a statement that I would like to continue to back with funding.
There have been abuses of the Quinn bill incentives – some rather thin degrees have been granted — but these abuses have been controlled by the Department of Education. I don’t want to see police officers take a pay cut that is not shared by other employees. If the state does not fund the Quinn bill, it will fall on already-stressed local governments to preserve the incentive and many may not be able to step up.
So, at the moment we are in the process of filing and co-sponsoring amendments to the House budget. I have agreed to co-sponsor Representative Fallon’s amendment restoring funding for theQuinn bill. Co-sponsorship at this stage is an expression of support which makes it more likely that the funding will be part of any major budget compromise.
I will also vote to restore the funding if the amendment comes to a roll call vote in a floor fight, on one condition: That the House has previously voted for a substantial tax package that will pay for the restoration of this and other equally critical priorities.
That’s an important “if” – it is not at all clear that the House is ready to raise taxes. Right now, the House Ways and Means budgets includes dramatic cuts in many important programs and abolishes many others – far deeper cuts than have occurred in many communities, including Belmont. Yet the House budget is arguably out of balance by several hundred million dollars. It is based on revenue estimates developed in December and revenues have been falling since then. So, we really can’t add big items into it without taking some hard tax votes.
Quinn Bill Resources