July 19, 2017

Baker’s budget vetoes hit Worcester hard

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Wikimedia Commons/Hsin Ju HSU

Massachusetts State House

Worcester’s four members of the state House of Representatives last week issued a statement trumpeting a number of spending priorities they were able to include in what was to be the state’s first $40 billion budget.

“I am very pleased with the budget put forth by the House this year, which demonstrates our commitment to exercising fiscal responsibility while making meaningful investments in programs and services that our constituents rely on most,” Rep. Dan Donahue said in the July 12 press release.

By the time Gov. Charlie Baker was through cutting more than $320 million and adjusting tax revenue projections Monday, the Legislature’s proposed $40.2 billion plan had been reined in to a $39.4 billion package — and eight of the 14 “budget priorities” totaling $535,000 in funds highlighted by the city’s delegation were among the vetoes, according to Erik Mayberg, chief of staff for Rep. John Mahoney.

Among the cuts were allocations to community center programs in a trio of the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, plus earmarks for UMass Memorial Medical Center and the Worcester Public Library’s bookmobile program.

On the bright side, the six highlighted priorities that Baker spared from his budget ax account for more than $2 million in local spending, including critical funding for Recreation Worcester, according to Mayberg.

The cuts made by Baker still have a chance to be added back into the budget if the Legislature can muster support for a veto override. Those cuts were:

  • $50,000 for the Worcester Public Library’s Book Mobile: “This funding would have helped support the Worcester Public Library Foundation in its efforts to replace Worcester’s first mobile library, ‘Libby’,” according to the statement.
  • $45,000 for the treatment and preservation of Indian Lake in Worcester: “This funding would have assisted in chemical treatments, dredging, and keeping one of Worcester’s main attractions for recreational activities in the region healthy and available to our communities.”
  • $150,000 to help upgrade the intersection at the Newton Square Rotary: “It continues to be a safety hazard and extreme inconvenience for residents and local businesses.”
  • $50,000 for the Pleasant Street Neighborhood Association Network Center: “To improve the lives of youth within the Piedmont neighborhood with an emphasis on leadership, community development and youth employment.”
  • $40,000 for South Worcester Neighborhood Corporation.
  • $40,000 to the Quinsigamond Village Community Center (QVCC): “To provide a variety of services from case management, employment services, community dialogues and a community food pantry.”
  • $100,000 for the UMass Memorial Children’s Medical Center Down Syndrome Clinic: “Based on a patient-centered medical home concept, [these funds would have ensured] full operation of the clinic, which serves children with multiple complex health challenges.”
  • $60,000 UMass Memorial Emergency Stop Team: “For emergency and tactical medical support services.”

Spending priorities that are included in Baker’s fiscal 2018 budget:

  • $60,000 to support Friendly House, “which provides critical transitional support services to populations most in need in the Worcester area.”
  • $200,000 to help fund Recreation Worcester, “the free year-round out-of-school time program which engages with the community to provide enriching, athletic, artistic, and academic programming for Worcester’s youth.”
  • $175,000 to re-plant trees in Worcester, “as a result of Asian Longhorn Beetle infestation. These funds will allow thousands of new trees to be planted, as the most cost efficient method to solve infestation.”
  • $90,000 to support programming and operating costs at Worcester County House of Correction, Dismas House, “which include prison and jail reentry services, transportation, recovery, therapeutic services, case management, employment search, and civil legal resolutions.”
  • $1.4 million for the Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science, “a public and co-educational school at Worcester Polytechnic Institute that enrolls academically accelerated 11th and 12th graders.”
  • $446,131 for the Worcester Talking Book Library (located at the Worcester Public Library), “which provides free services to Massachusetts residents of any age who are unable to read traditional print materials due to a physical or visual disability.”

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