Mass

Squealing for Pork! Mass. FY2020 House Budget Amendments – PART 18

IT’S JUST MONEY … NO DEBATE NECESSARY – PART 18 Brings Pork Total to $585.7 Million So Far

FROM OUR PRINTED JAN. 1, 2021 EDITION

by Ted Tripp
Sr. Political Reporter

In this long-running series exposing the corrupt budget amendment process, we add another $7.8 million of frivolous spending your esteemed politicians believe is necessary. This brings the total we have reported so far at $577.9 million + $7.8 million = $585.7 million. Slowly but surely we are approaching the $600 million mark. If we had included the amendments seeking more money for regional issues, drug treatment programs, veterans issues and medical spending (all of which we specifically exclude), the amount would be significantly higher, perhaps $100 million higher.

But let’s get back to this month’s set of amendments.

Rep. Andres Vargas (D-Haverhill) proposed “Not less than $25,000 for Haverhill Downtown Boxing, Inc.” What you don’t see here is that last month we reported that Rep. Vargas proposed “Not less than $25,000 for the Haverhill Inner City Boxing Club, Inc.” We have to ask: Is Rep. Vargas encouraging one boxing club to fight the other? These are organizations that purport to implant structure, discipline, hard work and achievement in at-risk youth. But we thought programs that risked concussions and injury were frowned upon by the medical establishment? Look at football. Major changes are taking place in youth football to reduce the possibility of head injuries. Some communities have even cancelled youth football programs. Yet Rep. Vargas wants to use state funds to encourage a sport where head injuries are common. Is he out of touch with the real world?

Let’s look at Rep. Paul Brodeur (D-Melrose) and his amendment to add $2,539,949 for the MassHire One-Stop Career Centers. This is line item 7003-0803 in the budget which the House Ways & Means Committee recommended at $3,960,051. The final House budget shows this same amount, so Brodeur did not get the increase he asked for. Likewise, the final budget signed by the governor also listed $3,960,051 for this item. The taxpayers dodged a bullet on this one.

It’s also useful to remind everybody that this budget was passed when the economy was booming and unemployment was at record lows. Employers were begging people to work for them. Thus, added money for the MassHire Career Centers was not really necessary. In this crazy state, however, 63 other state representatives co-sponsored or signed onto Brodeur’s additional spending.

Let’s look at another Rep. Andres Vargas (D-Haverhill) proposed amendment of a $442,500 general increase for summer jobs for youth at risk (YouthWorks). This budget line item, 7002-0012, is already recommended at $14,000,000 by the House Ways & Means Committee. The final House budget amount for this item came in at $15,070,000 after five other amendment earmarks were tacked on totaling $970,000. This means only $100,000 was added to the general appropriation, so maybe Rep. Vargas got a portion of what he sought.

But wait! The final budget signed by the governor shows $16,070,000 for this line item, $1,000,000 more than the House budget and $2,070,000 more (14.8% increase) than originally recommended. So somewhere along the way more money showed up for this line item than even Rep. Vargas had requested.

Such are the mysterious ways the Massachusetts budget is assembled. 

Finally, as always, 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 unless it increases budgeted amounts.

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. ♦

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