SOURCE: STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE — Gov. Charlie Baker offered a $38.1 billion budget proposal Wednesday that would increase state spending by 3 percent while aiming to carve $750 million in savings out of the expansive MassHealth insurance and safety net program.

Baker’s budget will undergo statewide public hearings before the House redrafts it in April and the Senate in May, leading up to the likely signing of a new budget sometime in July.

The budget blueprint spurred advocacy and other interest groups to quickly release statements with their initial observations. Here’s a sampling:

— Senate President Stanley Rosenberg:

“The Senate is committed to making government work more effectively and more efficiently for working families across the Commonwealth. As we study the Governor’s budget proposal, we will be looking for clear cut evidence that this budget is intended to fulfill these same objectives.”

— Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants, Trial Court Chief Justice Paula Carey and Trial Court Administrator Harry Spence:

“Although we recognize the financial constraints facing the Governor and the very difficult choices reflected in this budget proposal, we are deeply disappointed with the funding allocated to the Judicial Branch. The provision of justice must be a top priority of government; our courts each day address the most serious problems faced by the residents of this Commonwealth, are essential to the preservation of public safety, and provide the infrastructure for the rule of law indispensable to a successful economy.

This proposed budget does not provide the necessary funding for us to operate or staff the courts in a safe and effective manner.

Nor is it fair. The Trial Court has consistently suffered the harshest cuts of any major state organization during the fiscal crisis since FY 2008: while constituting 9% of the Commonwealth’s workforce, the Judiciary provided 22% of the state’s reduction in force. While the non-Judiciary state budget has grown by 37.3% since FY2008, the Judiciary’s budget has grown by 4.6%. Similarly, while the Executive Branch FTE workforce has grown by 1.9% since FY2008, the Judiciary workforce has shrunk by 10.3%. Trial Court staffing has declined by 17% in July 2007 to July 2014, from 7,629 to 6,316. Based on this budget proposal, the Trial Court estimates that it would need to eliminate another 550 employees, making the disparity between the Executive and Judicial Branches even starker.

We in the Judicial Branch take our obligation to those we serve seriously. As part of that obligation we must inform the public of the ramifications of this budget on the Judicial Branch and our ability to deliver justice. This budget proposal jeopardizes the ability of the courts to keep its courthouses open. The Judicial Branch has made much progress in streamlining its operations and increasing access to the public; all of these efforts will be at risk with the current budget proposal.

We look forward to working collaboratively with the Governor and the Legislature to ensure that the Judiciary is funded at a level that ensures that justice is effectively delivered, and that basic criminal justice and public safety needs are met.”

— House Minority Leader Bradley Jones (R-North Reading):

“I applaud Governor Baker for delivering a state budget that recognizes the significant fiscal challenges the Commonwealth is facing, but does so in a way that is responsible, transparent and sustainable.

The proposal released today increases state spending at a rate of 3 percent, which is well below the projected revenue growth of 4.8 percent, while holding the line on new taxes and fees and avoiding any draw down from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. It also sets clear priorities, beginning with a commitment to local aid in the form of a $105 million increase in Chapter 70 education funding and an additional $34 million in Unrestricted General Government Aid for our cities and towns.

Governor Baker inherited a sizable deficit from the previous administration, but he has risen to the challenge by forging ahead with a creative budget plan and accompanying legislation that seeks to addresses a myriad of key issues including ongoing service problems at the MBTA, slowing the growth of Medicaid, and providing much-needed relief to working families by doubling the Earned Income Tax Credit over a three-year period.  I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House Caucus to ensure that Governor Baker’s initiatives are fairly considered as components of the House budget in the weeks and months ahead.”

— Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Karen Spilka:

“I am still reviewing the details of Governor Baker’s budget plan, and I look forward to gathering more information about the impact of his recommendations in the coming days.

I applaud the Governor for his efforts to make homelessness prevention a priority, rein in Medicaid costs and increase funding for services for children, families and people with disabilities. However, we must make sure eligibility changes and other cuts do not make it harder for our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable to access the health care, human service programs and emergency assistance they depend upon. We must find new ways to run an efficient, cost-effective government, but we can’t balance the budget on the backs of those who can least afford to be left behind.

The future of our Commonwealth depends on a compassionate government that provides tools and opportunities for all individuals and families. I am pleased to see the Governor focus on local aid for our communities, a long-standing priority for the Senate. We must also continue to be a partner with the business community, serving as a resource for innovative businesses to grow, thrive and compete here in Massachusetts.”

— Margie Sullivan, President of the Massachusetts Production Coalition and Executive Producer at Redtree Productions, a commercial production company in Boston:

“Massachusetts doesn’t have to put one group of people out of work to help another group struggling to get ahead. Expanding the earned income tax credit is important, but kicking the strong and growing film and television production industry out of our state will only hurt our economy and result in thousands of Massachusetts jobs lost.

Even critics of the production incentive acknowledge that the film tax credit is the primary reason film and television companies come to Massachusetts.

Eliminating the Massachusetts film and television production incentive will drive jobs created by the production of motion pictures and television shows to competing states. It will destroy a growing local industry and cost thousands of local jobs with absolutely no benefit to the state budget or the working poor.”

— Mass. Budget and Policy Center President Noah Berger:

“Governor Baker has wisely identified investing in education, transportation and local communities as budget priorities to help working families and strengthen our economy. This budget does not, however, make significant new investments in those areas. It doesn’t expand access to early education and care and it appears not to make higher education more affordable. It doesn’t provide the funding it would take to fix our public transportation systems. It also relies on over half a billion dollars of temporary and questionable revenue and savings. This use of one-time strategies means that we will likely continue to face budget gaps in the years ahead.”

— Veronica Turner, executive vice president of the state’s largest union of health care workers, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East:

“The 1199SEIU healthcare workers who provide lifesaving, critical, and preventative care to residents across Massachusetts everyday will be the voice in this process ensuring patient care and consumer access to care is protected. As the frontline experts on care delivery and costs, healthcare workers will play an active and integral role in this discussion. Healthcare workers look forward to providing a frontline perspective to the legislature throughout this process — both as caregivers and as advocates for those in our care.”

— Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance President Paul Craney:

“Governor Baker’s FY ’16 budget represents a welcome and continued break from our state’s recent economic policies, particularly since it does not seek to raise taxes,” said Paul Craney, the group’s executive director. “It’s now up to the legislature to ensure that these much-needed reforms don’t get derailed by politics as usual.”

— Ruben Montano, Lynn project director of the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative (SSYI), a municipal anti-crime grant program, which received:

“Working with a coalition of providers throughout the state, we were so pleased that Governor Baker committed his support to SSYI during the campaign. And in his first budget, we are incredibly appreciative of his support to prioritize SSYI as a program with proven outcomes to reduce violence while also saving taxpayer dollars.”

— Put MA Kids First Coalition, a group of more than two-dozen early childhood education organizations and out-of-school programs:

“Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed FY’16 budget fails to address critical needs in the Commonwealth’s early childhood education and care and out-of-school-time programs. We understand the fiscal realities the Commonwealth faces, but we believe the administration has missed an important opportunity to signal its commitment to all elements of the education continuum, particularly the critical segment of early education and care.

A renewed commitment is needed to put our youngest children on the right track. It’s time early education and out-of-school programs are recognized as essential elements of the education system. They are not extras, or optional. Strengthening early education and care should be an integral part of the Commonwealth’s long-term plan to invest in human capital to support growth and quality goals.”

— Mass. Democratic Party Executive Director Matt Fenlon:

“The key to a budget for Massachusetts voters is how painful cuts made by Republican Gov. Baker will be balanced with maintaining needed services. Because of key investments made over the past eight years by Gov. Deval Patrick and the Democratic legislature, Massachusetts is No. 1 in the nation in education, clean energy and veterans services.

Additionally, according to the conservative Associated Industries of Massachusetts, business confidence is at highest level since 2000 – and that’s because of the leadership of Gov. Deval Patrick and our Democratic legislature.

Now it’s up to Gov. Baker to work with the Democratic legislature and deliver us a budget that allows Massachusetts to stay a national leader.

During the campaign, many people said Gov. Baker only saw numbers and not people. With this budget, he’ll need to do a lot to convince voters he does see the people behind line items.”

— Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of community organizations, labor groups and religious organizations:

“The best way to help working families and build a stronger economy for us all is to make sure that we have good public schools for our children, affordable higher education and a transportation system that lets people get to work and customers get to businesses. The budget announced today fails to make needed investments in these priorities and will not create an economy that works for everyone.

Years of deep cuts have contributed to an ever-widening gap between our highest earners and everyone else in our Commonwealth. Today, residents with the highest incomes pay the smallest share of their income in state taxes. If they paid the same rate as the rest of us, billions would be available to improve our schools, make higher education more affordable, and fix our crumbling transportation system.”

— Former Rep. Carl Sciortino, the executive director of the AIDS Action Committee:

“Governor Charlie Baker has called for a seven percent cut in funding for HIV/AIDS prevention, education, and outreach in his FY2016 budget. If implemented, these cuts would be devastating to those in Massachusetts living with HIV/AIDS and those who are vulnerable to HIV infection. We should be investing in HIV prevention services, and working toward the goal of zero new infections, rather than making cuts to effective, evidence-based programs that improve health and, over the long-term, yield significant savings in averted health care costs.

“Here in the Commonwealth, those who are living with HIV and those who are vulnerable to infection?Black and Latino men and women; gay and bisexual men; transgender women; people who are homeless, particularly young people; and those who are incarcerated?are some of our most vulnerable residents. In recommending cuts to the HIV/AIDS line item that will impact the ability of AIDS service organizations and health care providers to engage in prevention, education, and outreach activities that connect people with healthcare, the Governor is asking them to bear a disproportionate burden and unfair cost related to the budget.

“Public spending in Massachusetts should be aligned with effective, successful programs. Such programs not only improve lives, but yield a substantial return on investment. Since 2000, HIV diagnoses in Massachusetts have been cut by 41 percent, which has meant that thousands of people who might have become HIV positive have been spared the risks to health that can come with HIV. The state, meanwhile, will save an estimated$1.7 billion in avoided HIV-related health care costs. ”

— Health Care for All Executive Director Amy Whitcomb Slemmer:

“Health Care For All welcomes Governor Baker’s budget proposal. In his budget, the Governor maintains the Commonwealth’s long-standing commitment to providing access to affordable health care, and we look forward to the proposal’s consideration in the coming weeks as it moves to the legislature.

We are particularly pleased that the budget extends this year’s decision to restore MassHealth coverage for full dentures. We continue to call on the legislature to restore full dental benefits for adult MassHealth members. Many benefits were cut in 2010, and only some have been restored so far. Having access to comprehensive oral health is important for everyone and is particularly critical for pregnant women, diabetics, and people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic diseases who are vulnerable to serious dental complications.

The budget also expands services available to children with autism. This long-overdue coverage will allow families to receive the comprehensive services necessary for an improved quality of life. We applaud the Governor for this investment.

The Governor’s budget assumes significant savings based on the re-evaluation of every MassHealth member’s eligibility. Health Care For All will work diligently to ensure that the redetermination process is fair and responsive to the needs of the over one million people who rely on MassHealth for their health care.

We are encouraged by the initiatives put forth by the Baker administration that address some of the key social determinants of health by investing in economic self-sufficiency. Doubling the funding dedicated to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and initiatives that provide more permanent housing options are critical tools that promote stability for hard-working families. These programs represent the foundation of health vitality and long-term economic opportunity.”

— Megan Amundson, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts issued a statement in support of Baker’s proposal to set aside $300,000 for women without health insurance to cover contraception.

“Women’s access to affordable contraception should not be restricted because of their employers’ beliefs. Access to contraception is a core economic issue for many women and families in the Commonwealth. While it is unclear how women will be able to access this financial support for basic health care, NARAL supports the concept as a promising step toward ensuring that all women can afford birth control. We look forward to working with the Baker Administration to ensure that this mechanism meets the goal of providing all women with access to affordable contraception without creating unintended barriers. We also look forward to working with the Legislature to ensure that this initiative moves forward in a way that ensures an effective mechanism for implementation and adequate funding and in this and future state budgets.

Many women across the Commonwealth face economic barriers to accessing birth control. This proposed fund could potentially fix an important piece of the problem for FY2016, but it is not the entire solution to ensuring access to affordable contraception. We look forward to working with the Baker Administration to pass An Act Relative to Women’s Health & Economic Equity that requires insurance carriers to provide all forms of birth control without a copay. These two policies together will go a long way toward making birth control accessible to every woman in the Commonwealth who wants it.”

— Al Norman of Mass. Home Care:

“It appears we can manage to avoid home care waiting lists next year, which leaves many innovative plans on hold

but its (sic) still calming news for the elders we serve.”

— The Children’s League of Massachusetts, a statewide non-profit association of over 80 private and public organizations, supported Baker’s proposed increase in funding to the Department of Children and Families.

“We are pleased that Governor Baker has proposed an increase of $29M for DCF in the FY16 budget in addition to $35M he proposed in his FY15 supplemental budget,” said Carla Saccone, chair of the Children’s League of Massachusetts and President and CEO of Children’s Friend and Family Services of Salem. “We are reassured that he is following through on his promise to protect and care for the Commonwealth’s children.”

— Chris Norris, executive director at Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership:

“Based on our initial reading, all the main elements-homelessness prevention, permanent housing, and supports once people are housed-seem to be in place. One concern of ours is that the primary method we use to deliver these services would see its funding further reduced.

The Housing Consumer Education Center (7004-3036) is free and open to the public, people of any income level can call us to get help with their housing-related questions and crises. It’s a huge task and we need to make sure we have the resources to do the best job possible.

We are calling on the legislature to fund this at $2.6 million, a $900,000 increase from the governor’s recommendation.”

— Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corp., asking for a $10 million increase to $25 million in civil legal aid aimed at low-income individuals and families:

“Civil legal aid is a crucial safety net for thousands of low-income residents across Massachusetts, giving them access to legal help as they seek to escape intimate partner violence or overcome barriers to employment, education, or quality healthcare,” said Lonnie Powers, MLAC Executive Director. “Increasing funding for civil legal aid saves the state money. For example, every dollar spent on legal aid to keep people from losing their homes saves the state more than two dollars in homeless benefits.”

— The Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency focused on the arts, sciences and humanities, would be funded under current levels — just under $11.8 million — in the governor’s fiscal 2016 budget plan and is seeking $15 million:

“We appreciate Governor Baker’s support for the arts, humanities and sciences,” said Anita Walker, MCC Executive Director. “Despite an economic recovery, the state still faces significant fiscal challenges. The Governor’s budget proposal recognizes that arts and culture are part of the solution to those challenges, and that investing in our cultural organizations, communities and arts education yields real dividends for the Commonwealth.”

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