And Still No State Budget [OPINION]
Still, no state budget for the fiscal year that began 19 days ago, and local leaders are beginning to get antsy waiting to find out how much state aid they will ultimately receive and whether their payout will be delayed or impact their budgets in any way.
While Governor Charlie says he is more optimistic today than he was on Monday that a budget agreement is close, no one connected to the process can say with any degree of certainty that it is. The Senate is so confident that a deal is near that it adjourned for a long weekend on Thursday and won't be seen again until Monday. Now there's arrogance for ya.
To its credit, the House has scheduled a rare, and I mean extremely rare, informal session for Friday morning, but I guarantee that bucket of hacks won't hang around long before cutting a trail out of Dodge. Budget conferees say they will hang on the Hill through the weekend trying to accomplish something.
So, even if a budget agreement is reached today, which is unlikely, the earliest it can be taken up would be Monday–but what's the rush?
The State House News Service reports that pharmaceutical drug pricing controls are believed to be one of the sticking points, if not the major obstacle, between the branches. I don't give a damn what the hangup is–just work it out and get it done. You are costing us money. The delay is threatening full reimbursement for the charter schools you have hoisted upon us.
The first local aid payment to local communities, some $500 million, is due on July 31 and a $380 million debt payment is due in August. That's in addition to the considerable cost of meeting payroll. The SHNS says the bulk of the $1.72 billion dollars spent just since July 1 has gone to cover MassHealth and other health care programs and debt service.
The Commonwealth is currently operating on an interim budget signed by Governor Baker that is based on the last fiscal year's budget. Baker has not said if he would consider another interim budget to cover spending for August.
No one in the legislature should get paid until and unless a budget is approved. No elected lawmaker should be allowed to take a long weekend or leave the State House during normal business hours until and unless budget has been enacted.
This lackadaisical approach to the people's business is disrespectful, unacceptable and needs to change.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.