House approves budget amendments with little or no debate

‘Why do they call it a debate?’ asks Mass Fiscal Alliance

THE HOUSE on Wednesday approved a spending plan for the coming fiscal year after three days of deliberations, with most of the serious discussions taking place out of sight.

As they have in years past, House members met privately and decided which of the more than 1,500 budget amendments would pass and then lumped them together in a series of mega-amendments that were approved publicly by the full House with little or no debate.

“Why do they call it a debate?” asked Paul Craney, a spokesman for the right-leaning Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “It’s a process. It’s not a debate.”

As an example, Craney pointed to budget amendment No. 701 filed by Rep. John Lawn Jr. of Watertown that raised the annual salary of governor’s councilors from $36,025 to $45,025. The Governor’s Council confirms judicial appointees.

The amendment was included in consolidated amendment E and then passed unanimously with no mention of what was included in it.

Lawn could not be reached for comment.

House Speaker Ron Mariano indicated he thought the budget process worked well. “This was as efficient and stress-free as any budget in the past 32 I’ve done,” he said just before the final vote, according to State House News Service.