Beacon Hill Democrats are up to their old tricks, yesterday attempting to push through a $400 million spending bill – 81 pages long and containing 137 outside sections – after releasing it after 8 p.m. Friday.
OK, so in a typical year supplemental spending bills like this one usually pass without much controversy.
But word clearly hasn’t reached the State House that this isn’t a typical year – that voters and taxpayers aren’t in a “business-as-usual” mood.
The bill is designed in part to close out the books on fiscal 2010, which ended June 30 (including nearly $12 million in funding for raises for higher education and sheriff’s office employees), as well as to parcel out the $450 million in one-time federal Medicaid funding the Bay State received last month.
Supporters say passage is urgently needed to ensure the ship of state doesn’t sink.
“If we don’t address these, you’re talking about facilities closing, you’re talking about [hospital] beds being shut down,” House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Murphy told the State House News Service. “You’re talking about people not getting the services they need now.”
You’re also talking about compounding next year’s budget problem, when the one-time money has all dried up. And we have to wonder what lawmakers and Gov. Deval Patrick would have done if the feds hadn’t come through with the Medicaid money.
Furthermore, if things have become so desperate, why load the bill up with dense changes in language that diminish its chances of swift passage?
Sure, many of the bill’s 137 sections contain mere technical changes, but there are also new rules on siting of wind energy facilities, and tweaks to new laws dealing with criminal record-keeping and controlling health care costs.
Unanimous consent is needed to pass a bill during an informal session, and Republicans who objected yesterday argued that they had no opportunity to study what’s in this one.
So what else is new?
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