Thursday, October 29, 2009
Please tune in to WBUR, 90.9 FM tonight for my preliminary analysis of Governor Patrick’s budget reduction proposal for Fiscal Year 2009.
Governor's Proposed Budget Cuts
Importantly, this plan does not reduce the major local aid accounts, although others such as regional school transportation would be reduced according to these provisions. Also significant is the fact that some elements of the plan would require legislative authorization to be implemented.
Please click on "Read more" to read the Governor's summary.
GOVERNOR PATRICK PROVIDES LEADERSHIP BASED ON VALUES; CLOSES BUDGET GAP, MAINTAINS INVESTMENTS IN CORE SERVICES
WORCESTER – October 29, 2009 – Providing leadership based on values, Governor Deval Patrick today appeared before a gathering of business leaders in Worcester to unveil his plan to close a $600 million mid-year budget gap. The Governor announced that he made tough decisions in order to fully protect Local Aid for communities and Chapter 70 education aid for children, preserve vital human service programs, and limit impacts on public safety.
“We should be just as concerned about our commitment to our values as we are about the value of our commitments. Those values – creating good jobs at good wages, offering a world-class education to our kids, delivering quality, affordable health care to our residents, protecting and supporting the most vulnerable – those are the values to which we as a Commonwealth are committed,” said Governor Patrick. “So as I meet my statutory responsibility to bring the budget in line, I do so according to my moral responsibility to those values.”
The Governor today also vetoed $24.5 million included in a final Fiscal Year 2009 supplemental budget, spending he said is unaffordable given the current economic challenges facing the Commonwealth.
Like many states suffering the impact of the current global economic downturn, Massachusetts has experienced a dramatic decline in revenues over the past year, leading to a cumulative budget gap of more than $8 billion over Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010. The Patrick-Murray Administration has aggressively managed the recession’s impact on the Commonwealth, revising revenue estimates four times in the last year, and using a multi-pronged approach to successfully balance the budget.
The plan the Governor filed today is a similarly responsible, balanced approach that includes $352 million in cuts across state government, limited additional revenues, a modest amount of federal recovery funds and a $60 million FY09 surplus resulting from the Governor’s aggressive budget management and personnel controls.
“There were no easy decisions before us in closing this budget gap,” said Administration and Finance Secretary Jay Gonzalez. “The Governor and our team made the tough choices necessary to preserve key investments and commitments in areas like education health care and safety net services. The decisions we have made in this process will allow us to confidently and successfully manage the year ahead and set the Commonwealth on course for a strong recovery.”
Preserving Core Programs and Key Investments
The Governor’s thoughtful and careful approach to making cuts allowed him to preserve programs and services critical to helping the Commonwealth cycle out of the downturn and key to long-term economic growth. Among the items the Governor preserved are:
• $4.037 billion for Chapter 70 Education Aid. The Governor has maintained his commitment to education by protecting his record-level investment in Chapter 70 during each round of budget reductions.
• $970 million to hold state college and universities harmless
• $16 million for Universal Pre-Kindergarten and Head Start programs
• $936 million to hold Local Aid harmless
• Maintained eligibility for MassHealth and Commonwealth Care
• $10 million for Department of Mental Health Club Houses to serve the mentally ill.
• Preserved funding for family shelters, rental vouchers and local housing authorities
• Avoided closing any correctional facilities
To preserve these programs and close the $600 million gap, the Governor used the following solutions:
$352 Million in Cuts Across State Government
The Governor is using his statutory authority to make $277 million in cuts across Executive Branch agencies. Additionally, he is seeking expanded 9C authority to make $75 million in cuts to non-executive branch agencies including the Legislature, Constitutional officers, the Judiciary, Sheriffs and District Attorneys. He asked the Legislature today to act swiftly to grant him this authority in order to achieve immediate savings and ensure shared responsibility throughout all of state government.
A full list of reductions can be viewed at www.mass.gov/bb/gaa/fy2010/.
The Governor has directed agencies to prepare plans for additional personnel reductions to achieve an additional $35 million in savings. The Governor asked unions to agree to contract revisions to reduce the number of layoffs required. Without union compromises, the Governor will direct agencies to begin implementing their layoff plans once approved. In total, the Governor expects a personnel reduction of up to 2,000 positions over FY10.
The Governor is also requiring the approximately 4,000 managers within the executive branch to take up to nine furlough days through the remainder of the fiscal year in order to achieve additional savings.
State employees have contributed significantly to solving the budget deficit. To date, the Governor has eliminated 1,680 positions over FY09 and FY10, and in FY09 required executive branch managers to take up to 5 days of furlough. Additionally, the Governor and the Legislature agreed in FY10 to increase employee health care contributions, saving the Commonwealth $50 million.
$102 Million in Tax Amnesty and Other Departmental Revenues
Included in the Governor’s plan to close the budget gap is a proposal to offer a tax amnesty program, estimated to generate $20 million. The Commissioner of Revenue will promptly develop and administer the program. The Governor’s plan also includes $82 million in anticipated departmental revenues.
Additionally, the Governor is including $24 million from the proceeds of the development of surplus land and a surplus in the Smart Growth Housing Trust Fund.
FY09 Surplus Funds and ARRA
As a result of the Governor’s tight fiscal management and the personnel controls he imposed in FY09, the Commonwealth ended the year with a modest surplus of $60 million. The Governor’s applying the surplus to avoid making deeper cuts to core services and programs. The Governor has protected the Commonwealth’s Rainy Day Fund, not drawing on the current balance to help close the current gap.
Additionally, to avoid reductions to higher education, the Governor is using $62 million in available American Recovery and Reinvestment Funds.
Efficiencies, Reforms and Management Tools
In addition to proposing solutions for immediately closing the budget gap, the Governor filed several proposals that will improve the efficiency of state government and give agencies the ability to better manage their budgets.
In the last year, the Patrick-Murray Administration has achieved significant reforms that will improve the way services are delivered and taxpayer dollars are managed including an historic consolidation of transportation agencies, pension reform and strict new ethics laws.
He has also consolidated Information Technology services, making government more efficient and secure.
Among the efficiencies and management tools proposed by the Governor are:
• Reducing by $5 million the so-called Quinn Bill program. The Governor has simultaneously filed a proposal that establishes a commission to identify a new method for supporting educational advancement of law enforcement officers.
• Elimination of Bunker Hill and Evacuation Days, paid holidays granted only to state employees working in Suffolk County;
• Providing for shared administrative services within Secretariats;
• Allowing limited transferability of funds between accounts
Additionally, he has asked agencies to submit to him by December 15th new consolidation proposals such as combining human resource functions and consolidating economic development agencies to consider as he prepares for Fiscal Year 2011.
In addition to tools for managing the state budget, the Governor is also calling on the Legislature to promptly pass the Municipal Partnership Act II, which contains tools that will save municipalities millions of dollars through changes including health insurance reforms.
The Governor’s full proposal can be viewed at www.mass.gov/anf
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
A. Piatt Andrew Bridge Update
We are pleased to provide you with the most recent update on the reconstruction project for the Route 128 A. Piatt Andrew Bridge over the Annisquam River.
Fall foliage and cooling temperatures signal the transition to a fall construction schedule, which will involve lane closures and changes in traffic patterns. Those project elements are discussed in the update, which is attached for your review.
Project progress is also quite visible, with some new elements now in place. These are also outlined in the update from MassHighway.
To read MassHighway's progress update please click "Read more" at the bottom of this post. Thank you for your continuing interest in this project, and please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of any further assistance.
Senator Bruce Tarr and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante
Photo showing the installation of the cement concrete overlay in the right travel lane on Route 128 Southbound.
Photo showing installation of the suicide deterrent/safety fencing on the easterly side of the bridge. The design of the fencing was coordinated with the local historical commission.
Release Date – October 21, 2009
Project Bridge Preservation: Route 128 over the Annisquam River
Status 65% complete
Description The work involves the removal and replacement of the wearing surface of the bridge deck along with rehabilitation of the superstructure and portions of the substructure on Bridge No. G-05-017 carrying Route 128 over the Annisquam River in Gloucester. The project will also include replacement of the sidewalks along with significant structural repairs and painting portions of the superstructure. A new wearing surface will be placed on the bridge along with a new median barrier. The existing bridge railing will be refurbished and a suicide deterrent safety screen will be erected along the sidewalk. SPS New England, Inc. is completing the work.
Current Project Status – The project is currently working under Stage II of the traffic management plan which has temporary concrete barrier installed along the right hand side of the northbound and southbound high speed lanes reducing traffic to one lane (inside lane) in each direction. This traffic setup will be in place during the fall months and will allow the Contractor to finish the new sidewalks, bridge rails and fence as well as place the new concrete deck in the slow lanes. The Contractor has completed most of the masonry repairs/rehabilitation below the bridge. Structural steel repairs continue. The placement of the concrete overlay in the right travel lane in each direction is underway. The Contractor is continuing with the cleaning the structural steel below the deck in preparation for new paint. The Contractor continues to work Saturdays and Sundays, as needed, as well as extended hours during the week to remain within the approved schedule of operations.
Note: Additional project information and history can be found by visiting MassHighway’s website at: http://www.mhd.state.ma.us/ and clicking on the Project Info tab and selecting Projects under Design and Construction for the City of Gloucester, Project No. 604797.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Media Alert: Interviews About Flag Bill
Also, an interview on this bill with WBZ Radio, AM 1030, will air tomorrow morning.
Promoting Flag Education
When I was approached by Wilmington American Legion member Joe Steen about the need to ensure that students were educated about the American flag, it was clear that he was making an important point: students in our high schools should understand why our flag is significant and how it should be treated.
The result of our conversation is Senate Bill 282, “An Act to Establish a Program of Instruction of the Flag of the United States.” This bill amends the section of the Massachusetts General Laws that requires students to be educated about the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and other subjects necessary to engaged and responsible citizenship.
S. 282 simply adds the proper treatment of the flag to the list of subjects already in the law. Fortunately, federal law provides clear guidance on the respectful treatment of the flag at 36 U.S.C. 170-177, and this guidance would form the basis of the curriculum required by S. 282.
To view the text of S. 282 please click this link: http://www.mass.gov/legis/bills/senate/186/st00pdf/st00282.pdf.
Please click http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode36/usc_sec_36_00000144----000-.html# to read the text of the federal law pertaining to the United States flag, 36 U.S.C. 170-177.
Friday, October 23, 2009
This year a highlight of the breakfast was the presentation of a community service award to Corey Grammas, who owns and operates Lobsta Land Restaurant in Gloucester. Corey comes from a family that has always been deeply involved and generous in supporting civic and charitable activities, and has hosted the annual breakfast on many occasions.
I was pleased to attend and support the breakfast again this year. In the picture from the event below with me are Corey’s proud mother, Trudy Grammas, and Ron Graves.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
School Funding Chief to Visit Gloucester
Tomorrow’s visit will include tours of the West Parish Elementary School and others, and discussions with the school committee and school department administrators. The visit will begin at 2 p.m. at the school department administrative offices, located at 6 School House Road.
The visit is a significant step in the MSBA’s consideration of 5 Statements of Interest submitted recently by the school committee and the City of Gloucester. Tarr and Ferrante are hopeful that action on Gloucester’s applications occur as soon as the November meeting of the MSBA board.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Votes to Note: Securing Funds for Cities and Towns
Yesterday the Senate debated and passed a supplemental budget intended to address the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis. An important amendment to this budget was offered by Senator Robert Hedlund (R-Weymouth) to assist cities and towns in recapturing excess profits yielded by affordable housing projects constructed under Chapter 40B of the Massachusetts General Laws. Chapter 40B limits the profit to the developer of such projects in exchange for reduced zoning and permitting requirements.
I was pleased to support this amendment, which would allow Inspector General Sullivan to establish a commission to recover these funds for cities and towns. Sullivan has done tremendous work in investigating this situation over the last few years, and the amendment would have given him the authority to take action based on his prior efforts.
Unfortunately the amendment failed by a vote of 10 to 25, but we will continue working to address this issue.
Please click “Read more” to view the vote on this issue.
Roll Call Votes: Yea Nay
Steven A. Baddour nay
Frederick E. Berry nay
Stephen M. Brewer nay
Scott P. Brown yea
Stephen J. Buoniconti nay
Gale D. Candaras nay
Harriette L. Chandler nay
Sonia Chang-Diaz nay
Cynthia Stone Creem nay
Kenneth J. Donnelly nay
Benjamin B. Downing nay
James B. Eldridge NO Vote
Susan C. Fargo NO VOTE
Jennifer L. Flanagan NO VOTE
Anthony D. Galluccio nay
Jack Hart nay
Robert L. Hedlund yea
Patricia D. Jehlen nay
Brian A. Joyce nay
Thomas P. Kennedy nay
Michael R. Knapik yea
Thomas M. McGee nay
Joan M. Menard nay
Mark C. Montigny yea
Michael O. Moore nay
Richard T. Moore yea
Michael W. Morrissey yea
Senate President Therese Murray NO VOTE
Robert A. O'Leary yea
Marc R. Pacheco nay
Steven C. Panagiotakos nay
Anthony Petruccelli nay
Stanley C. Rosenberg
Karen E. Spilka nay
Bruce E. Tarr yea
James E. Timilty yea
Richard R. Tisei yea
Steven A. Tolman nay
Susan C. Tucker nay
Marian Walsh nay
Friday, October 16, 2009
Hamilton Manager Bill Becomes Law
“Passage of this act signifies a major step for Hamilton in responding to the increased demands on municipal government to address issues of growing complexity,” said Tarr. He credited the dedication of volunteers who studied the issue and devised a plan to restructure the town’s governance, saying “the new law truly reflects hard work at the local level to research changes and build consensus.”
A volunteer government study, chaired by volunteers Susan Wiltshire and Jack Lawrence, researched the town manager concept and developed the bill that is now law.
Representative Hill said, “I congratulate the government study committee for all of their hard work and advocacy on behalf of this bill. Anytime a change in government is made it is never easy, but with citizens like these in place I am sure that the transition to this new form of government will be a seamless one.”
The provisions of the bill were developed by the Government Study Committee and approved at Town Meeting last spring. Tarr and Hill pledged to work diligently to secure its passage at that time, and have honored that commitment.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Promoting Tenant Safety
The intent of the bill is to protect tenants living in buildings which may have undisclosed and serious building code violations. “Building Codes are in place to protect health and safety, and a tenant deserves to know when that protection isn’t in place,” said Tarr.
The Senate bill would require a property owner to remedy a building code violation within 30 days of notification of its existence. Importantly, a property owner would be required to notify a prospective tenant of building code violations affecting health and safety prior to the signing of a lease, according to the provisions of the bill.
In addition, the bill would prescribe notice of building code violations involving health and safety in writing to tenants who could be affected by the violations every thirty days by the property owner responsible for the building with such violations. Failure to comply with the provisions of the bill would trigger penalties currently contained in the state’s Sanitary and Building Codes.
“People who could be seriously affected by major building code violations deserve to know the fact that they exist,” said Tarr. He added that “giving tenants this important and basic information will give them the power to protect themselves from potential tragedy.”
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Saying Thanks to “Sarge”
In his civilian life, he has been a leading advocate for motorcycle and traffic safety. Over the past several years he has helped to organize and conduct major events such as Nelson’s Run, and has been a major force at the state House in securing positive changes for safety.
Last Friday I had the honor of presenting Sarge with a Senate Citation recognizing his remarkable efforts to make the roadways we travel safer for all of us.
Below is a photo of the citation presentation taken at Wilmington Town Hall:
Friday, October 9, 2009
More Economic Information
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Charting a Course through the Storm
Today the Senate Committee on Ways and Means (of which I am a member), the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Secretary of Administration and Finance held a joint hearing to hear from some of the state’s top economists about a significant projected gap in the state budget for the current fiscal year and the outlook for next year.
A detailed itemization of projected deficits was provided by Michael Widmer of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, summarized below:
• Income tax:-$150 million
• Sales tax:-$250 million
• Corporate and Business taxes:-$200 million
The general consensus from the experts seemed to be that the current shortfall will be approximately $600 million, although estimates did vary. In the near term this will almost certainly dictate budget cuts, probably in mid-October. More generally, however, it means the Governor and the legislature must redouble efforts to reform, streamline, find and capture savings, and create a better climate for economic growth and job creation.
To read the agenda for the hearing which details those who testified and some of the written testimony submitted to the committee please click the document below.
Ways and Means Revenue Hearing October 8
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Improving the Governor's Council
Look for an article this week in Lawyer’s Weekly on legislation I have filed to make the operations of the Governor’s Council more open and transparent. S. 1457, “An Act Relative to the Reform of the Executive Council”, contains several important steps, including:
* Making the Governor’s Council subject to the Open Meeting Law
* Requiring the Governor’s Council to issue an annual report detailing its actions over the last year, including a list of all votes taken
* Requiring the Governor’s Council to maintain a website with biographical information and a complete voting record for each member, as well as a record of all meetings
The bill will receive a public hearing on Thursday, October 8, before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.
A First Night For First R
Importantly, the stickers also contain a line for the student to write their name to identify them as the owner of the book. What a great accomplishment for this program, which has been developed and sustained by Pat Earle.
In order to place their stickers, Pat enlisted the assistance of Rick Doucette and the YMCA Team Leaders Club. I arranged for pizza and soda and we worked to get the job done. Soon students will be visited by guest readers and be receiving a new book to call their own. Below is a picture of the sticker placement team.
To read a Gloucester Daily Times article on the project, please click the following link http://www.gloucestertimes.com/archivesearch/local_story_276022147.html.
Friday, October 2, 2009
Supporting the Polish Picnic