Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Senate Republicans Pursue Major Budget Changes; Amendments would Reform, Reinvigorate and Reinvest

Calling the Fiscal Year 2015 budget proposal filed by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means a good place to start, the Senate Republican Caucus has filed a number of amendments seeking major positive change to capture efficiencies and savings in state government, to strengthen cities and towns and schools, and support working families all across the Commonwealth.

“The budget is not only the most important spending document of the year, it also charts a course for the future of our state,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), who added that “Now is the time to begin building a post-recession Massachusetts featuring critical elements like efficiency and prosperity.  These amendments set a course toward those goals.”

Toward that end, the caucus has carefully examined the budget with an eye toward amendments targeting the three major themes of Reform, Reinvestment and Reinvigoration.  They include amendments to:


·  respond directly to problems at the beleaguered Department of Children and Families (DCF) (amendments 40, 65, 76 and 80);

·  make key changes to the state’s Sex Offender Registry system, to cause better communication with law enforcement agencies, and more properly classify offenders with a greater risk of re-offense (amendment 612);

·  change the state’s interaction with the federal Affordable Care Act by restoring important elements of Massachusetts’ existing law, including rating factors, choice of plans and a website that works (amendments 885, 890 and 894);

·  increase accountability through amendments dealing with state-issued credit cards (amendment 192), the granting of medical marijuana licenses (amendment 911), crime lab oversight (amendment 622) and other problematic areas;

·  implement needed reforms to the state’s system of Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards that remain trapped  in a stalled conference committee (amendment 836)


·  eliminate barriers to job creation and economic growth such as corporate excise taxes for new business ventures (amendment 43), excessive sales and income taxes (amendments 16 and 25), energy costs (amendment 204) and other anti-competitive costs;

·  provide incentives such as tax credits for newly-created jobs (amendments 18 and 45) and the long-delayed FAS 109 tax deduction promised to employers since 2008 (amendment 46);

·  cuse the creation of a real state economic development plan with measurable goals and benchmarks (amendment 460)


·  begin to restore unrestricted local aid to its levels in 2008 (amendment 87), and direct a portion of budget surpluses to cities and towns  (amendment 86);

·  improve school performance and student achievement by reinstating the Innovation Schools line item (amendment 464), restore the Foundation Budget Review Commission to address deficiencies in Chapter 70 education funding (amendment 21), and expand the Education Pothole line item to assist communities facing unanticipated fiscal challenges (amendments 82 and 504); and

·  support the statutory promises of regional school transportation funding (amendment 545)

“This budget debate provides us with a great opportunity to start keeping the promises we’ve made to taxpayers for more reform, lower taxes and a better economy with more and better jobs,” said Assistant Senate Minority Leader Robert L. Hedlund (R-Weymouth).  “It’s also a great opportunity to re-commit to our cities and towns, who have taken it on the chin in recent years with inadequate local aid and more and more unfunded mandates.  My colleagues and I in the Republican Caucus are ready to fight for these promises and principles and I hope after all the debate we have a budget I can proudly support.”

“This budget presents a myriad of opportunities to offer significant changes that will benefit taxpayers and municipalities across the Commonwealth,” said Senator Richard J. Ross (R-Wrentham), the Ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “My colleagues in the Republican Caucus and I will continue to advocate for meaningful government reform to enhance efficiency and transparency, while alleviating the financial burdens felt by taxpayers and businesses statewide.”

“The Republican Senators are mindful that the citizens of our Commonwealth continue to struggle with the high costs of living and working in Massachusetts,” said Senate Minority Whip Donald F. Humason, Jr. (R-Westfield).  “We intend to promote a state budget that is responsible and respectful to the taxpayers of the Bay State while continuing to push for efficiency and accountability in our state government.  It is the least we can do for the people who send us to be their voice on Beacon Hill.”