Senate and Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless criticize budget cuts

Republican governor of Massachusetts Charlie Baker has drawn criticism from the Democratic Senate and other organizations for his unilateral budget cuts. The cuts, allowed by section 9C of the Massachusetts Legislature, have drastically cut funding to many public programs in the upcoming year’s budget.

After deficient sales tax revenue of it’s the administration’s projection, Massachusetts governor Charlie Baker has unilaterally cut $98 million from the $39.25 billion state budget. These cuts, which have decreased funding from programs including health care for the poor, suicide and addiction prevention, education, and housing, have been criticized by the Democratic legislature as “premature.”

House Speaker Robert DeLeo has stated his dissatisfaction with the governor’s choice, stating that “recent revenue numbers indicate a need to be vigilant; they do not, however, necessitate cuts at this time.” The state income was 0.2 percent below expectations as of November.

In an official statement, Kristen Lepore, Baker’s budget chief, explained the governor’s decision. “Today, we are acting to put the budget back in balance for the hardworking people of Massachusetts as provided under 9C authority in response to softening revenues, unavoidable spending deficiencies, and the Legislature’s decision to restore spending above the administration’s signed balanced budged,” said Lepore.

Speaker DeLeo announced that the legislature may seek to restore funding to some of the 140 programs and accounts affected by the cuts with supplementary budgets, focusing on substance addiction treatment, suicide prevention, and homelessness programs.

Kelly Turley, Director of Legislative Advocacy with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, said that, “when the budgets are cut there is an immediate impact on people who are in the most vulnerable financial positions. Even though there’s a lot of money in the budget left uncut, because these programs are more critical, they are still felt by those who need them most.”

Particularly worrisome to Turley are cuts to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and other housing assistance programs and those to transportation programs like after school transportation. She also explains that drug abuse prevention programs are among essential programs being cut: “Though people experience homelessness for a variety of reasons and most aren’t homeless due to drug addiction programs, there is a rise in the number of people who are in need of substance abuse resources just because there are fewer and fewer resources available.

The Coalition for the Homeless calls on members and advocates who have experienced homelessness to tell the Governor and local leaders that they oppose the budget cuts. “They can’t overturn these cuts but additional line items can be requested to expand the budget,” explains Turley. “We have a large number of private citizens who understand the urgency of these programs and we urge them to express that they stand against these cuts and prioritize state programs that aid the state’s most vulnerable citizens.”

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