A look at one of the Legislature’s veto overrides
Lawmakers restore earmarks for all sorts of local projects
THE LEGISLATURE SWIFTLY OVERRODE many of the governor’s budget vetoes on Monday, including one whose elimination has become almost an annual rite of passage on Beacon Hill.
Baker on Thursday vetoed nearly $4 million in legislative earmarks included in a line item for the Department of Fire Services, an agency in charge of training firefighters across the state and funded by an assessment on property and casualty insurers doing business in Massachusetts.
The House voted to override by a margin of 148-1 on Friday, while the Senate voted 36-1 on Monday.
The property and casualty insurers say they don’t mind paying for legitimate firefighter training expenses, but lawmakers for a number of years now have taken a more expansive view of the agency’s role, using the line item to pay for all sorts of local spending initiatives that have very little to do with training.
The list goes on and on. Sen. Barbara L’Italien, who is running for Congress, got $90,000 for Tewksbury; Sen. Jason Lewis secured $75,000 for Stoneham; Rep. John Mahoney landed $100,000 for Worcester; and Sen. Joseph Boncore got $65,000 for Winthrop (which is also the hometown of House Speaker Robert DeLeo).
Republicans also got in on the action. Sen. Patrick O’Connor secured $100,000 for fire station improvements in Scituate and Sen. Viriato deMacedo won passage of an amendment funneling $100,000 to the Fire Chiefs’ Association of Plymouth County for upgrades to their emergency communications system.
Lawmakers each year keep adding more and more spending to the line item, which has grown from nearly $14.4 million in 2010 to $24.5 million in 2018, an increase of 70 percent.The insurers who foot the bill say their customers ultimately pay the cost of the assessment. “While denominated an assessment, in reality this is a tax imposed on insurance companies to defray the cost of basic governmental services,” the insurers said in a letter to Baker each of the last two years.
For an in-depth look at funding of the Department of Fire Services and a new initiative passed this year to fund municipal police training with a $2 fee on rental car contracts, click here.