FROM OUR PRINTED FEBRUARY 2020 EDITION
Squealing for Pork! Mass. FY2020 House Budget Amendments
IT’S JUST MONEY … NO DEBATE NECESSARY – PART 7
by Ted Tripp
Sr. Political Reporter
This month we showcase a group of budget amendments that attempt to add a huge amount of dollars to an already bloated budget. Up through our first six installments of exposing the FY2020 budget amendment process we had accumulated about $129.8 million which we determined was unnecessary or unwarranted spending over that recommended in the original House Ways & Means Committee budget. Now we are adding another $198.4 million to this total for a grand new total of $328.2 million. That’s real money, folks!
Before we get into discussing this new largess, however, we want to focus on one of the smaller amounts. Back in 2018 when we last reported on the amendment abuses in the FY2018 budget amendment process, we were struck by Rep. Colleen Garry’s amendment of “Not less than $25,000 to construct a Gazebo in Dracut.” We used this as a metaphor of what is wrong with the process and how some of these crazy and unnecessary amendment items get approved. We said the unwritten agreement among politicians was, “You vote for my gazebo and I’ll vote for yours.” And that’s just the way it has been for many years, for Republicans and Democrats alike.
But now we have a new and better metaphor. On the nearby list you will see Rep. Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate) offering an amendment: “Not less than $9,580 for a Dog Park in Marshfield.” Even though the amount of money is miniscule in the grand scheme of budget dollars, Kearney still wants the state’s taxpayers to fund a Dog Park in Marshfield rather than the town’s residents. Is Marshfield so poor that it can’t afford the ten grand for its own Dog Park? We at the Broadside don’t think so. Rep. Patrick Kearney and Marshfield should be embarrassed to have us even bring this to our readers’ attention.
So now we will use the metaphor “You vote for my Dog Park and I’ll vote for yours” as what’s wrong with our budget amendment process.
There is a lot we can talk about in this group of amendments, but let’s concentrate on some of the big ticket items. Note the $110,000,000 amendment by Rep. Natalie Higgins (D-Leominster) for additional money to address equity for economically disadvantaged students. The House Ways & Means Committee had recommended only $16,500,000 and the Senate Ways & Means did not list any money for this item. Fortunately, cooler heads eventually prevailed and in the final budget only $10,500,000 was allocated for this line item (7061-0016).
So Rep. Higgins (D) had wanted a total of $126,500,000 to address student equity in the budget that was eventually reduced to $10,500,000. But here’s the kicker: This item didn’t even exist in the budget prior to FY2020! So she wanted $126.5 million of new spending for a new program that may or may not solve some perceived problem.
Do you get the impression Rep. Higgins (D) is not thinking that she is dealing with real money? Taxpayers’ money?
And Rep. Natalie Higgins (D) has a further amendment adding money for higher education at $64,212,820. She adds money to the budgets of 28 schools and universities across the commonwealth. For example, she added $10,257,206 to the UMass budget which was already getting $558,044,794 from the state. Does it really need another $10 million? Sure, if you ask the bureaucrats who run the UMass system. But they never have enough money.
What’s that old Citizens for Limited Taxation slogan, “More is Never Enough.”
Fortunately for John and Jane Q. Taxpayer, it looks like Higgins did not get her way as the final budget showed an allocation of the original $558,044,794 for the UMass budget.
Finally, we would like to mention one amendment that we did not list on the chart. Rep. Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) offered Amendment #470 requiring “for any wheel chair van transport vehicle, the amount paid by MassHealth per trip shall be no less than any amount paid by the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority for equivalent wheel chair van services provided by The [MBTA] RIDE… .” There is no dollar amount attached to this amendment, so there is no way to tell how much additional cost there will be to MassHealth, i.e. the taxpayers. This is just symptomatic of similar amendments that increase costs and sail through the budget amendment process, but have no clear impact on how much they might add to the actual budget.
And you wonder why our budgets are out of control?
We will end this installment by stating, as we always do, that we exclude amendments which deal with veterans’ issues and the associated spending. Likewise, we exclude 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 are also generally left out unless they add money to the House Ways & Means line items already in the FY2020 budget.
For more details on the House Ways & Means Budget go to:
https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2020/HouseBudget and for the amendments go to https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2020/HouseDebate. ♦
Pork Sample #7: Taking Money From Workers and Taxpayers, Giving it to Pet Projects
|Nika Elugardo||Boston||Hyde Square Task Force||Not less than $50,000|
|Nika Elugardo||Boston||Daughters of Saint Paul||Not less than $20,000|
|Nika Elugardo||Boston||Mildred C. Hailey Community Youth Leadership Institute||Not less than $50,000|
|Nika Elugardo||Boston||Mission Hill LINK shuttle bus service||Not less than $50,000|
|Hannah Kane||Shrewsbury||Add money to Healthy Incentives Program||$4,500,000|
|Nika Elugardo||Boston||Big Sister Association of Greater Boston||Not less than $200,000|
|Ronald Mariano||Quincy||Add money to nursing facility MassHealth reimbursements||$10,000,000|
|Hannah Kane||Shrewsbury||Add money for non-resident pupil transportation||$3,486,000|
|Hannah Kane||Shrewsbury||Implementing the State Action for Public Health Excellence Program||Not less than $1,700,000|
|Patrick Kearney||Scituate||Dog park for Marshfield||Not less than $9,580|
|Tram Nguyen||Andover||Tewksbury ambulance||$165,000|
|Tram Nguyen||Andover||Boxford firefighters’ turnout gear||Not less than $100,000|
|David LeBoeuf||Worcester||Main South Community Development Corp. efforts to reduce crime||Not less than $67,550|
|Tram Nguyen||Andover||Asian-American Women’s Political Initiative||Not less than $100,000|
|David LeBoeuf||Worcester||Water and sewer improvements in Leicester||Not less than $325,000|
|Donald Berthiaume||Spencer||Improvements to the highway department in Hubbardston||Not less than $25,000|
|Donald Berthiaume||Spencer||West Brookfield economic development||Not less than $20,000|
|Donald Berthiaume||Spencer||100th Anniversary for East Brookfield||Not less than $50,000|
|Kenneth Gordon||Bedford||Communities for Restorative Justice in Massachusetts||Not less than $30,000|
|Alice Peisch||Wellesley||Community Investors, Inc.’s The PowerPlay Initiative of Wellesley||Not less than $100,000|
|Alice Peisch||Wellesley||Mazie Partnership of Wayland||Not less than $50,000|
|Alice Peisch||Wellesley||Weston town center project||Not less than $500,000|
|Alice Peisch||Wellesley||Public service announcements during From the Top, Inc.’s radio programming||Not less than $100,000|
|Natalie Higgins||Leominster||Add money to public higher education||$64,212,820|
|Lenny Mirra||W. Newbury||Plum Island public facilities||Not less than $150,000|
|Natalie Higgins||Leominster||Add money to Equity for Economically Disadvantaged Students||$110,000,000|
|Ruth Balser||Newton||Crystal Lake Master Plan||Not less than $50,000|
|Ruth Balser||Newton||Roof of the Stone Building in Newton||Not less than $50,000|
|Ruth Balser||Newton||Develope the trail that runs beside Quineboquin Road in Newton||Not less than $50,000|
|Christine Barber||Somerville||Improvements to Blessing of the Bay Park in Somerville||Not less than $100,000|
|Ruth Balser||Newton||One Can Help, Inc.||Not less than $50,000|
|Peter Durant||Spencer||Southbridge Fire Department equipment||Not less than $50,000|
|Ruth Balser||Newton||Non-profit security grant pilot program||Not less than $500,000|
|Ruth Balser||Newton||Add money for Early Childhood Mental Health||Not less than $375,000|
|Ruth Balser||Newton||Add money for the Betsy Lehman Center||$380,000|
|Christine Barber||Somerville||Groundwork Somerville to support programs for youth||Not less than $100,000|
|Carlos Gonzalez||Springfield||North End Lincoln School community playground.||Not less than $20,000|
|Carmine Gentile||Sudbury||Public safety improvements in Sudbury||Not less than $40,000|
|Carmine Gentile||Sudbury||Wayland permitting software||$90,000|
|Alyson Sullivan||Abington||Replacing the roof of the Council on Aging in Abington||Not less than $125,000|
|Alyson Sullivan||Abington||Study for a centralized fire station in Abington||Not less than $100,000|
|Alyson Sullivan||Abington||East Bridgewater purchase/installation of middle school amplifier system||Not less than $35,000|
|Mark Cusack||Braintree||Braintree public safety improvements||Not less than $150,000|
|Total||Not less than $198,440,950|