Here is what Baker’s budget cut

When Gov. Charlie Baker made his $45.6 billion budget proposal Wednesday, he highlighted the things he is funding: education, economic recovery, mental health services, and local aid.

Left unsaid was the other story the numbers tell: With non-MassHealth spending increasing by just 1 percent – and an increase in education spending and COVID-recovery-related expenses – most line items will be level funded or cut. According to an analysis by the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, Baker’s budget cuts or eliminates 243 items, level funds 399, and increases funding for 126.

Advocates spent the day digging through line items to figure out what exactly the governor is cutting.

This year’s state budget gave a 10 percent bump in cash assistance payments to impoverished families and elders. Baker would eliminate that bump next year.

MASSCreative is unhappy that Baker is proposing a 10 percent cut for the Mass Cultural Council. The cultural advocacy organization notes that the cultural sector has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue since last March. “As we move forward with policy prescriptions for the post-pandemic world, community connections that foster well-being will be critical,” MASSCreative said. “And the non-profit arts and cultural sector will be key to those efforts.”

While Baker touted a $15 million increase to emergency shelters serving families, he cut $3 million from shelters serving individuals. Massachusetts is required by law to house all homeless families with children but not all individuals. “Our shelters are already struggling to make ends meet as the number of homeless individuals continues to increase and our staff battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” a spokesperson for the Coalition Homeless Individuals said in a statement. “A $3 million, 5 percent budget cut jeopardizes the safety and wellness of the most vulnerable among us in addition to the frontline staff supporting them.” 

Lew Finfer, who heads Massachusetts Communities Action Network, highlighted cuts in youth jobs programs, at-risk youth programs, and adult basic education.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is unhappy about a $31.1 million decrease for public colleges and universities (except UMass, which is level funded).

On early education, administration officials note that the $758.5 million Baker is allocating is 43 percent more than was being spent when he took office. Left out is the fact that it represents a significant decrease from the $834.1 million 2021 budget. The biggest differences: there is no rate increase being proposed for early educators next year and there is no money to pay parent fees, as was done to help low-income parents this year.

Amy O’Leary, director of Early Education for All, an early education advocacy campaign, said that governor seems to believe it makes sense that some relief put in place this year will no longer be needed next year, and federal money may alleviate the state cut. Baker officials say early education will get $130 million in federal COVID-19 funding, along with state money left unused this year. But O’Leary thinks the funding drop is problematic, since childcare is already underfunded, and some expenses like personal protective equipment may not disappear. O’Leary said this is not a time for “business as usual,” but to think about “how we use this opportunity to transform the way we think about funding in the future.”

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation identified more than $200 million in new spending and initiatives in the fiscal 2021 budget that Baker cut for fiscal 2022. Some programs were needed for COVID recovery this year, like school grants and economic recovery planning, which may no longer be necessary. Others include an affordable housing trust fund, a community college “SUCCESS fund,” and “community empowerment grants.”

It is now up to the Legislature whether to fund these items – and where to find the money.

SHIRA SCHOENBERG

 

FROM COMMONWEALTH

Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscal 2022 budget proposal calls for a drop in spending and no new taxes. Baker’s budget proposal provides funding under the Student Opportunity Act, but advocates and teacher unions decry the one-year delay in starting the law’s seven-year phase-in.

Long-simmering tension between teacher unions and the Baker administration over in-person learning emerge in a kerfuffle over the state’s vaccination priority list.

Opinion: Paul D. Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance raises alarms about the Legislature’s decision to pass a climate change bill even before it passes rules for this session. … Ben Hellerstein of Environment Massachusetts calls for a February 19 deadline for passing a climate change law. … Eugenia Gibbons, David Gasson, and Will Havemeyer urge the Legislature to quickly pass the climate change bill it passed last year.

FROM AROUND THE WEB

 

MUNICIPAL MATTERS  

MassLive runs a moving profile of Angel LaSanta, a Springfield trash collector with a son who has cerebral palsy, who tested positive for COVID-19. 

The Springfield mayor wants authority to tow the car of anyone who shoots off illegal fireworks. (MassLive)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Seniors are getting frustrated that they are unable to find an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine. (Telegram & Gazette) They say the process is too complicated. (WBUR) The state website now has a disclaimer warning users that COVD-19 appointments are limited and based on supply from the federal government. (GBH)

Surplus vaccine doses are sitting unused on shelves at Northeastern University because the school has been instructed by state officials not to use them on those who don’t fit current priority categories. (Boston Globe

Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld says Baker’s handling of vaccine distribution has been a complete disaster. 

\Quincy is opening a vaccination clinic at the start of Phase 2 for residents who qualify under the state’s inoculation rollout plan. (Patriot Ledger)

Israel has rocketed to the front in national vaccination rates, with a third of its population already inoculated, a status it achieved by agreeing to share health data with vaccine maker Pfizer. (Washington Post)

The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home board of trustees rejects the state’s plan for building a new soldiers’ home in favor of a different plan that would include more beds. State officials say the rejection imperils the whole project, which faces an April 15 deadline for getting federal funding. (MassLive)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday warned of a continuing nationwide threat of domestic extremism by people frustrated with the transition of presidential administrations. (USA Today)

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, in a Globe op-ed, says the Senate must investigate whether any of its members had a role in supporting the January attack on the Capitol. 

ELECTIONS

Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George will join the mayor’s race today, joining the two fellow women councilors, Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu, who declared their runs in September. (Dorchester Reporter

Housing policy is likely to be a major issue in the Boston mayor’s race. (Boston Globe

Diane Patrick, the wife of former governor Deval Patrick, endorses Andrea Campbell in the Boston mayor’s race. (Boston Globe

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The New York Times has an explainer on the GameStop “insanity.” 

In publishing its annual state salary database, MassLive notes that overtime pay for state employees increased by 9.3 percent last year. The highest earners among public employees were at UMass. 

Folks in the Berkshires think the region could benefit from emerging work-from-home patterns. (Berkshire Eagle)

EDUCATION

Using a novel approach that attempts to gauge the impact had by those affiliated with higher education institutions, researchers have compiled a new ranking system for US liberal arts colleges. Four Massachusetts colleges — Amherst, Hampshire, Wellesley, and Williams — land in the top 10. (Forbes

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Fossil fuel industry leaders are readying for battle as President Biden begins to make good on his vow to aggressively tackle climate change through a shift in US energy policy. (Washington Post)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Kimberly Budd calls on the Legislature to increase funding for civil legal aid. (Salem News)

Only nine people had firearms seized last year under the state’s new “red flag” law, which lets a judge confiscate the firearms of someone thought to pose a threat to themselves or someone else. (Salem News)

PASSINGS

Former New Bedford mayor Fred Kalisz died at age 63 from complications of COVID. (Standard-Times