Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Patrick Administration A No-Show At Today's Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Hearing

When the House and Senate Ways and Means committees convened the first in a series of hearings on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget today, one key Constitutional office was noticeably absent from the proceedings. Although committee members heard testimony from the state treasurer, auditor, attorney general and secretary of state, Governor Patrick's Administration & Finance Secretary, Jay Gonzalez, was nowhere to be found.

As anyone who follows the annual budget process on Beacon Hill knows, the Secretary of A&F is traditionally first in line to offer testimony on the Governor's budget. But according to the State House News Service, Gonzalez could not testify today because he was "scheduled to be away". Instead, Gonzalez will attend the eighth and final budget hearing, which is still 2 1/2 weeks away, on March 5.

We have to wonder what could be so important that it would keep the Governor's chief budget-writer away from such a crucial hearing, especially when state revenues remain shaky and the Commonwealth is facing a structural deficit of as much as $3 billion. Is it possible the Patrick Administration thinks its budget plan is so indefensible, it wants to wait until everyone else has testified so it can get in the last word against the critics? Or is this a case of the Governor simply not being focused on the budget at such a critical juncture for the Commonwealth?