PART 11: FY2018 Approved House Budget Amendments: It’s Just Money … No Debate Necessary

PART 11:  From Our June 2018 Edition

FY2018 Approved House Budget Amendments: It’s Just Money … No Debate Necessary – Part 11

Now Totaling $499 Million – Half a Billion Bucks!

by Ted Tripp

Sr. Political Reporter

In our ongoing series of amendment abuse, we are still examining the FY2018 House budget even though the House just passed a $40+ billion FY2019 budget with most of its new 1400 amendments approved without debate. We will deal with that nightmare shortly after we finish the current one. We just want to make sure that we don’t miss out on any important contributors to the FY2018 budget spending spree.

The nearby chart shows our eleventh installment of the amendment process your elected representatives go through to hike up the initial House Ways and Means budget. The total amount we have reported so far is up to $499 million and was passed on a voice vote by the House with no debate, no questions, and no problem.

What’s interesting about this group of amendments is the collection of items by Rep. Alice Peisch (D) of Wellesley. Now Wellesley is one of the richest towns in the state, yet Rep. Peisch feels she has to extract even more money from other parts of the commonwealth to help Wellesley pay for signage and other improvements in her hometown. What’s that old saying? The rich get richer and the poor get poorer? That’s it!

Rep. Peisch even put in a $1 million amendment for handicap access improvements to the Wellesley Square commuter rail station. While we might agree that this is a worthy item, shouldn’t the MBTA be taking care of this on its budget as an independent authority?

There was some good news on the budget front. Last month we mentioned the efforts of Rep. Geoff Diehl (R-Whitman), Rep. James Lyons (R-Andover) and Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica) to give some relief to the taxpayers.

This month we would like to give kudos to Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton). She offered up and had accepted amendments to increase the frequency of reviewing rules and regulations, enhancing public awareness through hearings of proposed tax and fee increases and requiring the MBTA Retirement Fund to make publicly available board meeting minutes on its official website.

Rep. O’Connell also filed an amendment which would prevent EBT card holders from knowingly using those cards outside of Massachusetts and its border states. The penalties were mild and ratcheted up to disqualification of cash benefits for six months on the third offense – but only after notice and a hearing.

Unfortunately, Rep. Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) added an amendment to O’Connell’s amendment which would not allow her proposed reform to “take effect” until an extensive review is undertaken to determine its “impact on the economy of the commonwealth and its municipalities, including, but not limited to, a distributional analysis of the impact to taxpayers of varying income levels, the current practice of other states, anticipated changes in employment levels … .” In other words, Rep. Shaunna O’Connell’s EBT card reform amendment has just been put on indefinite hold. Kulik’s amended, gutted version was approved by a House vote of 124Y to 36N (see https://malegislature.gov/Journal/House; Roll Call 45 for the vote of your legislator).

It’s people like Rep. Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington) who are the reason it’s so hard to get meaningful reform in Massachusetts. Until they are voted out of office, nothing will change.

Rep. Shaunna O’Connell (R-Taunton) also filed an amendment to require applicants for state-funded public housing to provide either a Social Security number or alien registration number, and that the applicants have their criminal offender record information checked prior to admission. This common sense amendment was gutted in the same way, this time by Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston) who amended the original language by requiring an extensive and mind-boggling study – effectively killing it. The House vote to approve Rushing’s killing language was also 124Y to 36N (see https://malegislature.gov/Journal/House; Roll Call 41 for the vote of your legislator).

Rep. Byron Rushing (D-Boston) is another of those obstacles to good government and reform.

Just a reminder, we do not list amendments that deal with veterans’ issues and associated spending. Likewise, we have excluded amendments that deal with the opioid crisis, Narcan, drug addiction treatment and the like. Most other medical spending, generally research, has also been passed over for this analysis.

Other amendments that deal with obvious state issues like regional (non-school) transportation, general education, multi-district concerns and administrative actions have generally been left out unless they add money to a House Ways and Means line item already in the budget.

To review, House spending amendments generally consist of two types: money for local projects to incur favor with local officials and constituents, and adding money to politically/emotionally favored line item expenditures in the budget. This latter area is where the big money is added to the House Ways and Means original budget.

If you would like to review all 1218 House amendments in detail, go to https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2018/HouseDebate; click on FY2018 in the upper left-hand corner box, then click on House Debate, Amendments, then each amendment number.

Pork Sample #11: Taking Money From Workers and Taxpayers, Giving it to Pet Projects

Representative Town/City Amendment, Amount
Russell Holmes Boston Matching program at Enrichment Center in Dorchester Not less than $150,000
Joseph McKenna Webster Water main in Webster Not less than $250,000
Brad Hill Ipswich Add money to beach preservation resources $306,644
Kevin Honan Boston Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership – capital improvements Not less than $25,000
James Kelcourse Amesbury Our Neighbor’s Table in Amesbury Not less than $30,000
James Cantwell Marshfield Add money to Plymouth County Mental Health Referral Service Not less than $250,000
Alice Peisch Wellesley Add money for IT grants $300,000
Patricia Haddad Somerset Community health worker training program Not less than $100,000
Claire Cronin Easton Turf field at Oliver Ames High School in Easton Not less than $75,000
Linda Campbell Methuen Methuen downtown development Not less than $200,000
Alice Peisch Wellesley Wayfinding signage in Wellesley Square Not less than $28,550
Alice Peisch Wellesley Brook Path improvement in Wellesley Not less than $22,000
David DeCoste Norwell Communications system for Hanover public schools Not less than $25,000
Alice Peisch Wellesley Healthy Relationships grant program $150,000
Alice Peisch Wellesley Make Wellesley Square commuter rail station HC-accessible (MBTA??) $1,000,000
David Linsky Natick Study/design: new Framingham campus for MassBay Comm. College Not less than $1,000,000
Linda Campbell Methuen Money for Cogswell School in Bradford Not less than $75,000
Russell Holmes Boston Add money to Bottom Line for college retention services Not less than $2,768,000
Marc Lombardo Billerica Yankee Doodle Bike Path in Billerica Not less than $25,000
Gerard Cassidy Brockton Primary Care Workforce Dev. and Loan Forgiveness Grant Prgrm. $500,000
Alice Peisch Wellesley Radio public service announcements during “From the Top” program Not less than $100,000
Paul Frost Auburn Auburn Youth and Family Services Not less than $10,000
Paul Frost Auburn Silent Spring Institute, Inc. for research Not less than $25,000
James O’Day West Boylston Post-partum depression pilot program in selected communities $200,000
Nick Collins Boston JFK Library Foundation $900,000
Stephan Hay Fitchburg Add money for On Site Academy for training and treatment Not less than $200,000
Michelle DuBois Brockton New Unfunded Student Reserve Fund to reimburse school districts $10,000,000
Nick Collins Boston Add money to Boston Fire Dept. Training Academy $2,487,000
Linda Campbell Methuen Methuen High School Mental Health Services Not less than $60,000
Mary Keefe Worcester Apiary Inspection Not less than $90,000
Mark Cusack Braintree Publick safety improvements in Braintree Not less than $250,000
James O’Day West Boylston For the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management $250,000
Marc Lombardo Billerica Billerica High School Athletic Association Not less than $25,000
Nick Collins Boston Add money to the Public Housing Reform Account $372,132
James O’Day West Boylston Add money to Pediatric Palliative Care $800,000
Russell Holmes Boston MetroLacrosse located in Dorchester Not less than $50,000
Stephan Hay Fitchburg Add money for Shannon Grant $3,250,000
Alice Peisch Wellesley Add money to Early Educators Rate Increase $5,000,000
Russell Holmes Boston Lena Park Community Center in Dorchester Not less than $50,000
Claire Cronin Easton Transitional relief to the Brockton public school district $1,500,000
Kate Hogan Stowe Massachusetts Center for the Book, Inc. $250,000
James O’Day West Boylston Add money to Umass Medical School $1,750,000
Russell Holmes Boston Add money to Youth in Crisis in Dorchester Not less than $50,000
    Total Not less than $34,949,326

 

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