BOSTON – Lawmakers heard on Tuesday for a larger portion of next fiscal year’s $ 46 billion state budget from leaders who say they need more money to deal with the pandemic’s impact.
Last month, the Charlie Baker government submitted a preliminary budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, which raises money for cities, schools and other important areas without raising taxes or fees.
But state constitutional officials, all Democrats whose budgets are approved as part of the annual spending package, say they need more.
During a livestreamed hearing on the budget, Foreign Minister Bill Galvin asked lawmakers to increase funding to make the postal vote permanent. The legislator is considering proposals to do so.
Galvin said the governor’s recommendation for the constituency for the coming year “short-circuits” that effort. He asked for an additional $ 1 million in addition to his initial request for more than $ 8 million for the election office.
“Clearly with the extra costs caused by postal voting … the figures in the FY22 budget must reflect that,” he said. “The governor’s recommendation is not enough.”
Attorney General Maura Healey, the state’s highest law enforcement official, asked lawmakers to increase funding to combat fraud in healthcare, criminal investigations, enforcement of labor laws, consumer protection and other priorities. She is seeking $ 58.2 million for her office – about $ 2.2 million more than Baker’s proposal.
“Our work has increased significantly in the light of the challenges of the past year, and I do not see it diminishing,” Healey said during the hearing. “We must be able to keep pace with the demand for helping people and businesses. Unfortunately, the governor’s funding is short.”
Treasurer Deb Goldberg asked for more funding for the state’s alcohol consumption commission and to carry out a cashless lottery.
“To succeed, the lottery must have the operational flexibility to expand cashless transactions in a way that will benefit both retailers and the state,” she told the panel. “At a time when we are facing increasing challenges and the demand for government services, lottery revenue is significant.”
Auditor General Suzanne Bump asked for more money to continue her office’s watchdog responsibilities, as well as funding for programs that have recently been shown to be deficient, such as tracking down registered sexual offenses.
Baker has referred to his spending plan as a “recovery budget” that maintains key programs and services, provides more resources for COVID-19 responses, and helps cities and towns hit by the pandemic.
To offset revenue losses, Baker wants to make a $ 1.6 billion withdrawal from the state’s reserve funds, which would leave $ 1.1 billion in the “rainy day” kitten.
The current budget relied heavily on one-time revenues, including $ 1.3 billion from reserves and about $ 550 million in federal pandemic resources. Baker’s budget does not expect any additional federal stimulus money.
Congress is discussing President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package that would include more pandemic relief for states and local governments.
Tuesday’s hearing before the Legislature’s Committee on Common Roads and Funds is the first of several on the FY22 budget. Other public hearings will be held in the coming weeks.
Christian M. Wade covers Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at [email protected].