The Budget Conference Report

We passed the conference committee report this week. It now goes to the Governor’s desk for review. He can send specific items back and almost undoubtedly will. This week’s vote was an up or down vote. Votes on selected individual items will come in the veto override process.

Here are the financial highlights:

  • No new taxes or fees
  • Despite the loss of federal funds, no further cuts in local aid. The final local aid numbers are the same major numbers that were approved in April, which included a 4% cut from last year. The special ed circuit breaker remains level-funded.
  • Further cuts in many state agencies, with a contingency plan for partial restoration if the federal funds come through.
  • Reserve fund draw and miscellaneous assumption changes to balance the budget.

Click here for the House Ways and Means financial overview briefing PowerPoint.

Law changes that were incorporated into the budget include:

  • Passage of a high priority of mine — transparency language, including tax credit transparency.
  • Some very modest further progress on pension reform — a cap on pensionable compensation (in my mind, way too high at $156,800); to my disappointment, no anti-spiking language.
  • Modest immigration changes — a step in the direction of tightening, but not the severe changes proposed by the Senate. Click here for a summary as prepared by House Ways and Means.
  • Disclosure requirements for corporate funded advertising (a limited first response to the Citizens United Supreme Court Case)
  • Miscellaneous minor tax changes, which may or may not make good sense, including 9 measures to facilitate collections.
  • Modest probation reforms, including a 5 year maximum term for the probation commissioner (not to apply to the present commissioner) and authority for the chief judge to transfer up to 5% of budget funds within probation (still no approval over hiring).
  • Facilitation of prescription of long-term antibiotics for lyme disease . . .
  • . . .a total of almost 200 outside sections running for 100 single-spaced pages.

Click here for a summary of the outside sections (supplied by the House Ways and Means Committee).

The largest disappointment was the failure to take any action to control municipal health care costs.

I did vote for this budget on an up or down vote. It included some progress and some disappointments. The absolute volume of changes made by the conference committee and the number of law changes wrapped in as outside sections did raise transparency concerns. But the product seemed close enough to OK to move forward at this stage, rather than to create further confusion by delaying the process past the start of the fiscal year.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.