Where Are We?

It has been just one week since the bombing of the Boston marathon and the unspeakable loss of life – and injury to so many of our fellow residents.  This blog – and our email updates have remained silent as each of us tried, individually, and collectively as a community to cope with this tragedy.

We will never quite be the same but the Common has once again come to life with the signs of spring and the State House is back in session.  Almost from the moment that Neil Diamond sang at Fenway and Big Papi shouted, “This is our f’ng city! And nobody going to dictate our freedom. Stay strong” Boston (and the Commonwealth) seemed to turn an important corner.

And so we are back in business.

So – where are we?

The State Senate passed a somewhat larger but not particularly more progressive transportation funding bill than the House.   We were disappointed, as were our allies at T4MA. The bill must now be reconciled with the House version in a conference committee

There are a number of good features to the Senate bill that we want to see preserved.  Chief among them:

  • The overall funding level itself; which is slightly higher than the House version although it doesn’t devote as much revenue to non-transportation needs.
  • A commission on tax fairness which might someday bring about a vote on an increase in the income tax;
  • Amendments to ensure that spending for transportation remains stable and predictable over time
  • An amendment that caps fare increases to no more than 5% in any two year period

While the conference committee is hashing out the details of transportation revenue, the state budget is being debated in the House this week with more than 800 amendments under consideration.  A great comparison between the Governor’s budget – which depended on raising almost $2 billion in additional revenue – and the House Ways and Means budget can be found here.

The cuts to early childhood education and youth employment are particularly disturbing.  Study after study have shown how important these programs are to reducing poverty.

But it is critical to remember that first and foremost, a budget is not a math exercise – it is a statement of values and principles.   The Governor made his vision for our Commonwealth clear on January 16th .  The Chairman of House Ways and Means released this letter with their budget and the Speaker gave this interview to the Herald.

Invest in early education and vital human services OR focus on the infamous budget line – “waste, fraud and abuse” when cash assistance in TOTAL is less than 1% of the budget??

We still support the Governor’s vision and want to see the budget – and the State House focused on those programs which make a real difference in peoples’ lives.

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