© 2024 New England Public Media

FCC public inspection files:

For assistance accessing our public files, please contact hello@nepm.org or call 413-781-2801.
PBS, NPR and local perspective for western Mass.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Mass. nonprofits, advocates for low-income residents are calling foul after Healey makes deep cuts

Members of the Lift Our Kids coalition gather on the State House steps Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024 to protest Gov. Maura Healey's emergency budget cuts to cash assistance programs.
Sam Doran
State House News Service
Members of the Lift Our Kids coalition gather on the State House steps Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024 to protest Gov. Maura Healey's emergency budget cuts to cash assistance programs.

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey's administration last week announced $375 million in budget cuts. Earmarks for nonprofits and other programs were cut in half. An expected cash assistance increase for low income residents planned for April has been canceled amid protests. But Healey said the cuts were necessary as revenues kept falling short. Chris Lisinksi of the State House News Service explains what possible reversal process lawmakers could employ to reinstate the money.

Chris Lisinksi, SHNS: I don't think there's something as explicit as there is for something like a standard budget veto, where lawmakers have override authority. But then again, lawmakers could always just pass another spending bill authorizing effectively a restoration of these funds. That doesn't seem like something they're considering at this moment. The signals we've gotten from Democrats in the House and Senate are even though they're not happy about the cuts, they at least understand the logic behind them and see them as a reasonable response.

Carrie Healy, NEPM: And we should disclose that state funding for NEPM was cut by 50% as part of those reductions. On Wednesday evening, Healey will make her very first state of the Commonwealth address. Can we assume, Chris, that the governor will need to address these budget cuts as she lays out her policy priorities for this year? And what are those priorities you're expecting to hear about?

I'm not actually sure she's going to venture into 9c cuts in the speech itself. You know, it might get an offhanded reference with talk of ‘fiscal prudence’ or other economic stability. We are instead expecting the governor to hammer home some core themes that we've seen over her first year in office, namely, making Massachusetts more affordable for its residents and more competitive with other states. But the governor has also hinted at a few specific issue areas. She said that education and childcare will be a topic that gets some attention in her budget, as well as transportation infrastructure.

She has gone out of her way to say that the past model of only fixing things as they break isn't really the right way to go about things in the future, so some announcements on that front certainly appear to be possible.

House Speaker Ron Mariano says emergency shelter costs are getting harder to support, citing slowing revenues. The actual cost is nearly three times the amount originally appropriated in Healey's fiscal 2024 state budget, and there are no signs that demands on the shelter system are letting up. Do Mariano's comments indicate the Legislature may eventually refuse to okay more money?

He certainly seems to be opening the door for that to be a possibility. We've seen this before where lawmakers voice some kind of skepticism about a spending need, but wind up approving it anyway, and that is by all means still in play, still on the table.

You know, it's not exactly a surprise. Lawmakers have long known that the money that they've given is not going to be enough. Even when they approved another $250 million for the shelter system this fall, top Democrats said at the time they thought that money would only get the system sometime into the spring, not until June 30th, which is when the fiscal year is actually over. So, the tone is certainly changing and becoming even more cautious and pessimistic. We don't know yet if that's going to be followed up with action or inaction.

And what are Republican lawmakers saying about this?

Republican lawmakers, however, have long been clear that they think that the state needs to rein in its spending on the emergency shelter system and change the underlying state law that guarantees shelter placement for eligible families. Remember, Massachusetts is the only state in the country with a so-called right to shelter law like that on the books. So, both the shelter spending and the 9c cuts Republicans have used as ammunition to make their broader points about the state's economic footing.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
Related Content