MA Budget battle spills onto State House floor - & steps - again

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Fri, 29 Oct 1999 12:15:16 -0700 (PDT)


"Also Wednesday, a coalition of groups, including unions and
activists for the homeless and the elderly, called for lawmakers to
support efforts to call the Legislature back into session after
Nov. 17." -- from AP news article below

http://newsfinder.arinet.com/fpweb/fp.dll/$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg0302
6/_itox/starnet/_svc/news/_Id/620725320/_k/aDqTkMccsUQrxsg2
FWD  [Massachusetts State, USA]

BUDGET BATTLE SPILLS ONTO HOUSE FLOOR AGAIN

Source: AP - AP Wire Service
Oct 27, 1999 22:51

By MARTIN FINUCANE
Associated Press Writer

BOSTON (AP) _ Lawmakers in the state House traded verbal jabs in
a feisty debate over the delayed state budget.

``Nobody, but nobody can tell you when this is going to end,''
Rep. John Slattery, D-Peabody, said Wednesday. ``It's our
obligation to try to bring pressure to force the budget to be
done.''

Slattery and a small band of others said they were worried that,
if the Legislature doesn't pass the budget soon, lawmakers in the
House won't get a chance to override line-item vetoes by the
governor.

The House and Senate are dominated by Democrats while Gov. Paul
Cellucci is a Republican. The legislative session ends on Nov. 17.

With no final action yet on a budget for the fiscal year that
began on July 1, the state has been running on monthly temporary
budgets _ and another such budget was pending before the House on
Wednesday.

The critics unsuccessfully pushed for a two-week budget. Rep.
Paul Demakis, D-Boston, argued that a two-week budget would ``send
the message to our constituents that we are taking the lack of a
resolution of this problem very seriously.''

The amendment failed on a 16-139 vote.

House leaders and Republicans charged that the proposal would
threaten a government shutdown.

``Let's not threaten the people of Massachusetts and the people
who depend on services from this commonwealth with the specter ...
that in two weeks they may not have any state money,'' said House
Minority Leader Francis Marini, R-Hanson.

Because of wrangling between the House and the Senate, the state
has been without a budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1.

Earlier this month, House Speaker Thomas Finneran, D-Boston, and
Senate President Thomas Birmingham, D-Chelsea, announced a general
agreement on issues that had separated the two chambers. They said
a detailed bill could be drafted within two weeks, but that
self-imposed target passed Wednesday without any resolution.

Members of the Democratic leadership in the House also argued
Wednesday for the monthly budget and said members should be
patient.

Rep. Salvatore DiMasi, the second assistant majority leader,
said, ``A small number of people in this chamber would just like to
criticize what we've done in the House. I think what we've done
this year in the House we should be congratulated on. The issues
that we've been discussing have long-term implications for this
commonwealth.''

``Have a little respect for the hard work that's gone into doing
this budget ... and think about the future of this state,'' said
DiMasi, D-Boston.

House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley, D-Weymouth, said
negotiations were down to a ``chosen few'' issues, ``but it's
important we make the right decisions.''

``We don't need any more pressure, folks. Thanks for the help.
We get plenty of pressure,'' he said.

The rhetoric became heated in the chamber, with Slattery
charging that Finneran had tried to ``undermine'' his agreement
with Birmingham immediately after the announcement of the pact.
DiMasi fired back that lawmakers should try not to be
``demagogues.''

A Finneran spokesman didn't immediately return a message seeking
comment Wednesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, Finneran brushed off suggestions Tuesday by
Cellucci's top fiscal aide Andrew Natsios that the budget might not
be resolved until next year. Finneran said the comments showed a
``remarkable absence of information.''

Finneran said he believed the budget would be done by year's
end. But beyond that, he said, ``I wouldn't predict anything.''

Senate Ways and Means Chairman Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, who
leads the Senate negotiators on the budget conference committee,
said, ``Every day there's progress. It's slow and painful at
best.''

Montigny echoed the fear of the dissidents in the House that
some veto overrides would not be allowed to come up for a vote in
the House.

``Both branches deserve a full airing and debate and opportunity
to vote on any veto override we choose to bring up,'' he said.

``It is a corruption of the constitutional process if we're
denied that right,'' he said.

Also Wednesday, a coalition of groups, including unions and
activists for the homeless and the elderly, called for lawmakers to
support efforts to call the Legislature back into session after
Nov. 17.

Finneran has not committed to calling the Legislature back,
while Birmingham has said he would.

AP-ES-10-27-99 2351EDT
Received  Id AP99300BF231CEE on Oct 27 1999 22:51

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