Approved House Budget Amendments: It’s Just Money … No Debate Necessary – Part 5
by Ted Tripp
Sr. Political Reporter
This is the fifth installment in our blockbuster series about abuse of the budget amendment process in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. The age-old way in which our elected officials amend the budget has morphed into a slick and sleazy procedure by the speaker in which hundreds of millions of dollars (or much more) in pet projects are added to the budget without debate. This out-of-control spending is one of the reasons there is a budget problem every year and the governor is forced to veto a lot of the Legislature’s overspending.
This year the 160 elected members of your Legislature offered up 1,227 amendments, most of which sailed through without discussion or debate.
As we have mentioned previously, most amendments entail funds for some town or local entity within the representative’s district, or adding money to a politically or ideologically favored line item in the original House Ways and Means budget. Both actions endear solons with voters during re-election.
As in previous installments, the process of using state money for local projects is a time-honored tradition that drives up the cost for everybody. It exists because of the general attitude: “You vote for my gazebo and I’ll vote for yours.” In July we reported on Rep. Colleen Garry’s request for “not less than $25,000” to construct a Gazebo in Dracut. Why should taxpayers from cities and towns all over the state be paying to build a gazebo in Dracut? It’s not fair to taxpayers in other cities and towns.
In the first four installments of this Broadside series we listed $162 million in House amendments and almost $6 million in Senate amendments. Here we add another $20 million for a total so far of $188 million and we still have much more to add in the future.
As a reminder, we have decided to exclude 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 transportation, general education, multi-district concerns and administrative actions have generally been left out unless they add money to a line item already in the budget.
Note on the list Boston Rep. Carmine Gentile’s $2,000,000 earmark to update an environmental impact study on a north/south rail link through metro Boston. The study will include: modern railway equipment and operating practices; updated ridership models; regional economic impact (including the impact on poverty reduction); health and environmental analysis (including greenhouse gas reduction); construction phasing and efficiency; and peer review. Whew! I guess you have to cover a lot of areas if you want to spend $2 million.
The call for a north/south rail link has been a constant since I was in baby clothes. If it ever becomes a serious project, it will make the Big Dig look like the construction of a gazebo in Dracut. This is like chasing after the end of the rainbow, but using our tax money to finance the journey. Somebody should just put a stop to it. Governor?
If you would like to review all 1227 House amendments in detail, go to https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2018/HouseDebate and just click on each amendment number. ♦
Pork Sample #5: Taking Money From Workers and Taxpayers, Giving it to Pet Projects
|Aaron Vega||Holyoke||Eureka program of Girls, Inc.||$200,000|
|Alan Silvia||Fall River||Military base promotion||$125,000|
|Ann-Margaret Ferrante||Gloucester||Massachusetts Technology Park Corporation||$2,130,000|
|Brian Ashe||Longmeadow||Software for The Springfield Performing Arts Development Corp.||Not less than $75,000|
|Carlos Gonzalez||Springfield||Puerto Rican Parade in Springfield||$50,000|
|Carmine Gentile||Sudbury||Environmental impact of north/south rail link||$2,000,000|
|Carmine Gentile||Sudbury||Treehouse Foundation of Easthampton||Not less than $100,000|
|Cory Atkins||Concord||Restoration of the Wright-Holden house||Not less than $25,000|
|Cory Atkins||Concord||Journey into Education and Teaching program||Not less than $100,000|
|Daniel Donahue||Worcester||Friendly House in Worcester||Not less than $60,000|
|Daniel Donahue||Worcester||To Worcester for the Quinsigamond Village Community Center||$75,000|
|Daniel Donahue||Worcester||South Worcester Neighborhood Improvement Corporation||Not less than $50,000|
|David DeCoste||Norwell||To Norwell for a generator for the Council on Aging||Not less than $30,000|
|Diana DiZoglio||Methuen||Add money to Regional School Transportation||$1,000,000|
|Diana DiZoglio||Methuen||Add money to volunteer income tax assistance program||Not less than $800,000|
|Diana DiZoglio||Methuen||YWCA of Greater Lawrence, Inc.||Not less than $25,000|
|Diana DiZoglio||Methuen||North Andover Youth Center||Not less than $25,000|
|Edward Coppinger||Boston||Add money to the New England Board of Higher Education||$186,083|
|Elizabeth Poirier||N. Attleboro||Keep Massachusetts Beautiful Organization||Not less than $25,000|
|Evandro Carvalho||Boston||Bird Street Community Center||Not less than $200,000|
|Evandro Carvalho||Boston||Computer science dept at Boston’s Madison Park High School||Not less than $250,000|
|Evandro Carvalho||Boston||The Friends of Coppens Square||Not less than $100,000|
|Evandro Carvalho||Boston||The People’s Academy Inc.||Not less than $100,000|
|Jeffrey Roy||Frnaklin||Recreation management plan for a flood plain and wildlife habitat||Not less than $25,000|
|Jerald Parisella||Beverly||To Beverly to repair carriage house in Lynch Park||Not less than $100,000|
|Jerald Parisella||Beverly||More funds to Beverly for traffic improvements||Not less than $100,000|
|Jerald Parisella||Beverly||To Beverly for the GAR Hall||Not less than $75,000|
|John Scibak||South Hadley||Reinstate periodontal coverage||$10,000,000|
|Joseph Wagner||Chicopee||Add money to New England Farm Workers Council||Not less than $250,000|
|Kevin Honan||Boston||Fishing Academy, Inc.||Not less than $50,000|
|Peter Kocot||Northampton||Healthy Food and Meals Program||Not less than $50,000|
|Peter Kocot||Northampton||Add money to Inspector General operations||$150,000|
|Peter Kocot||Northampton||Add money to Public Records Law implementation||$200,000|
|Peter Kocot||Northampton||Add money for the State Ethics Commission Administration||$100,000|
|Peter Kocot||Northampton||Add money for OCPF||$20,000|
|Shawn Dooley||Norfolk||To Norfolk to repair the roof of the H.Olive Day Elementary School||Not less than $150,000|
|Shawn Dooley||Norfolk||Construction of a new animal shelter in Wrentham||Not less than $50,000|
|Shawn Dooley||Norfolk||To Norfolk for a police station carport||Not less than $100,000|
|Shawn Dooley||Norfolk||To Millis for fire and police communication upgrades||Not less than $100,000|
|Shawn Dooley||Norfolk||To Plainville for Senior Center parking lot repairs||Not less than $100,000|
|Shawn Dooley||Norfolk||To Millis to update fire department equipment||Not less than $32,000|
|Steven Howitt||Seekonk||To Seekonk for relocation of Senior Center||Not less than $118,000|
|Steven Howitt||Seekonk||To Seekonk for the renovation of the Senior Center||Not less than $500,000|
|Total||Not less than $20,001,083|