Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Senate Republican Caucus Seeks Responsible Spending Measures to FY’14 State Budget

On the eve of the Massachusetts State Senate’s debate of a Senate Committee on Ways and Means budget proposal to Fiscal Year 2014 that had garnered over 700 amendments, the Senate Republican Caucus have filed several amendments that would put controls and cuts on taxes, raise revenue without raising taxes, and promote responsible spending measures and fiscal discipline.

Despite the laudable efforts of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means to level fund or reduce the funding for more than 300 line items, the overall cost of the budget now before us represents a 4.4% increase for Fiscal Year 2014 over the current year.  Given the uncertainty of the continuing economic recovery and the proposed $350 million withdrawal from the stabilization fund, we need to exhaust every option to save money, capture efficiencies, boost economic growth and generate revenue that doesn’t come from tax increases.

Unfortunately the committee’s budget proposal does not offer meaningful reforms to public subsidy and government welfare programs that are wracked with fraud and government waste.  Seeking to provide safeguards on such precious and needed programs, the Senate Republican Caucus offered several amendments aimed to achieve that goal.  Those amendments include:

           Amendment #76 would allow the Attorney General to seek recovery of any previously issued public assistance benefits from a recipient convicted under state or federal law for the use of a weapon of mass destruction, with the recovered money going to benefit the victims of the acts of terror.

           Amendment #549 would require all future EBT cards issued by the Department of Transitional Assistance to include the fraud detection phone number and web address.

           Amendment #573 would authorize the Department of Transitional Assistance to terminate the benefits of recipients of welfare benefits if their mailing address becomes unknown.  The amendment would also prohibit the Department of Transitional Assistance to continue using numerical placeholders instead of valid social security numbers for a prolonged period of time.

           Amendment #583 requires the nearly operational Integrated Eligibility System (IES) maintained by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to cross-check social security numbers of applicants from state and federal data sources and to track eligibility of public subsidies.

Our system of public assistance provides needed help to those in difficult economic circumstances, and we need to ensure that every dollar we allocate to that purpose gets to them, rather than being consumed by any waste, fraud or abuse.

Other amendments filed by the Senate Republican Caucus include cuts to the budget, jobs creation incentives, meaningful reforms to higher education funding, and revenue gains provided by online gaming.  Some of those proposals include:

           Amendment #157 creates a job incentive tax credit eligible to companies that increase their net employment figures in the Commonwealth.

           Amendment #143 would require certain government agencies, departments, and offices to reduce its spending by 1% for Fiscal Year 2014.

           Amendment #330 would provide tuition and fee waivers for Massachusetts veterans and active duty service members who are permanent and legal residents of the Commonwealth.

           Amendment #346 level funds several public university and state schools line items and places the FY14 budget proposal increases to be placed in a special fund to be distributed on merit based measures such as graduation rates, improved operation efficiencies, and increased academic successes.

           Amendment #123 would create 4 online gaming licenses to be made available to the 3 fully licensed casinos and the single slot parlor, and tax online gaming revenue at a rate of 20%, placing Massachusetts in the forefront of an evolving industry.

The amendments filed by the Senate Republican Caucus are part of an initiative to make government more efficient.

If you would like to read the actual text of these amendments and the amendments filed by all the members of the Senate, please click here.