(Heavy Traffic allows legislature to spend $400M without debate. WOW! – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)
State Representative Karyn Polito (R – Shrewsbury) sent the following letter to House and Senate leadership today expressing her objections to the $400 million supplemental spending bill and her disappointment that House leaders passed the bill notwithstanding her objections and despite the fact she arrived in the House Chamber mere moments after session began this morning:
October 4, 2010
The Honorable Robert A. DeLeo
Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives
The State House, Room 356
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Speaker DeLeo:
A little over a week ago, the House Ways and Means Committee reported a $400 million supplemental spending bill (now House Bill 5028) for consideration by the House of Representatives.
I have objected to the passage of this bill at several informal sessions over the past week for the purpose of exposing a fundamental problem on Beacon Hill – that the legislative process is dysfunctional and that as a state we continue to add to our budget problems instead of coming up with a plan to address our growing deficit. Even if leadership will eventually get what they want on this bill in informal sessions, that doesn’t mean I can’t shine a light on the conduct of business as usual at the State House and explain why it is wrong.
Informal Sessions Should Not Be Used to Spend Money This Way
The supplemental spending bill unilaterally spends several hundred million dollars and enacts over one hundred separate changes to our general and special laws. Yet, under the rules of informal sessions, there can be no debate and no roll calls. We should not pass hundreds of millions of dollars in new spending in an informal session where the number of legislative staff in the Chamber is greater than the number of legislators participating in the process on behalf of their constituents.
We Need A Plan To Address Future Budget Shortfalls Now
Massachusetts is facing a budget shortfall in Fiscal Year 2012 that is estimated to be at least $2 billion. Bridging this budget gap will be one of the most challenging tasks our state leaders have faced in many years.
I believe we must consider any new spending within this larger context. Every dollar we add to the budget today adds to the deficit next year. We must be mindful not to create pressure for future tax increases.
We Are Spending Money Too Early In The Fiscal Year
Another concern with the budget is that we are spending hundreds of millions of dollars a mere 90 days after we passed the FY2011 state budget. Accounts in the FY2011 budget – particularly those serving vulnerable populations – should have been properly funded originally without reliance on speculative federal dollars. I believe it is a fair question to ask why we are increasing budget appropriations substantially with one-time federal dollars. It’s also fair to ask why the budget we passed – and which was heralded for meeting the needs of our citizens – is now so deficient that we have to supplement it with additional spending so early in the fiscal year. Unfortunately, I have no opportunity to ask these questions and to have them answered in an informal session.
Spending Priorities Are Out-of-balance
Among the new spending called for in the supplement budget bill is $11 million in pay raises for public employees. I have spoken with people across the Commonwealth who are struggling to make ends meet, and one of the few things they can agree on is that now is not the time for public sector employees to get a pay raise. Saying that these raises are part of collective bargaining agreements that must be funded ignores the role of the Legislature in ratifying these agreements as being in the best interest of the people of Massachusetts.
We Need to Protect Taxpayers
Throughout my legislative career, my primary concern has been to protect Massachusetts taxpayers, and this has been my same goal this past week. In a good faith effort to move matters forward, I made several offers of compromise to your leadership this past week. One of my offers was to fund necessary accounts on a temporary six-month basis so we can resume deliberation of supplemental spending when a new Legislature resumes formal sessions in January. I separately requested that you defer consideration of any pay raises until later in the fiscal year when the full Chamber can debate it.
It is disappointing but frankly not surprising that my offers of fair compromise were summarily rejected by your leadership.
Despite my best efforts to be at session this morning at exactly 10:00 a.m., I was delayed by traffic and arrived moments after session started, only to find that the bill had already been passed and sent to the Senate. While there is little I can do to stop that, I am determined to speak out against the unnecessary spending and poor process represented by this bill, and I will continue to advocate for greater fiscal responsibility to address our budgetary problems.
I ask that you share my concerns with all the members.
Karyn Polito, State Representative
11th Worcester District
cc: Therese Murray, President of the Senate
Charles Murphy, Chairman, House Ways and Means Committee
Steven Panagiotakos, Chairman, Senate Ways and Means Committee
Bradley H. Jones, Jr., House Minority Leader
Richard R. Tisei, Senate Minority Leader