Baker Looking at Choices
The Boston Globe and State House News are both reporting that Governor Charlie Baker informed his Cabinet this morning that the state's mid year budget gap is worse than previously reported registering at $765 million out of an enacted $36.5 billion budget for fiscal year 2015 passed in July.
Baker's statement confirms the earlier estimate by the Massachusetts Taxpayer's Foundation suggesting that the deficit was much larger than the $329 million suggested by the prior Administration. The challenge now facing the new Governor is how to trim the state's budget deficit on a budget not of his own making, without harming essential services.
Lepore open to innovative partnership
The Governor and his chief fiscal advisor, Secretary of Administration and Finance Kristin Lepore, will likely be examining potential solutions which could possibly include painful budget cuts or other alternative approaches.
Today's online Boston Globe quotes Lepore as considering a partnership approach between the Governor and the Legislature that could result in a portion of capital gains receipts going into the General Fund, rather than it's current destination which is the State's Rainy Day Fund. Such an approach might stabilize the state's fiscal resources without violating the Governor's position to not increase taxes or deplete state reserves.
The Globe's story also quoted Lepore, while not fully endorsing this partnership approach, the Secretary indicated the Administration might be open to this idea while also considering areas of budget reductions.
To advocates watching every move of the Administration this first proposal seems intriguing, bi-partisan and sensitive to the potential harmful effects of deep budget cuts upon critically needed programs.
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Baker team likely to look inward for cost savings and program efficiencies
New Governor Has More Time to Submit FY16 Budget
Though new Governor Charlie Baker is expected to soon announce his fix on the current FY 2015 budget hole he inherited from his predecessor, his next major hurdle will be to roll out his own FY 2016 Budget by early March 2015.
Budget, agency and advocacy leaders are likely to find themselves and their programs exposed to whole different level of review, dissection and analysis under the new leadership brought in by Governor Baker.
Baker's prior experience as Secretary of Administration and Finance, and Health and Human Services means that the executive office knows more about the details and history of programs than the professional staff carrying them in for review. Usually programs like disability agencies and advocacy organizations like ADDP see themselves as carrying the historical and institutional knowledge about their programs, hoping to convince the new team about the worthiness of each program and "why we do things the way we do things."
In the case of Baker and his EOHHS team, led by Secretary Marylou Sudders, advocates will be working with leaders appointed by Baker who know more about why things work (or why they don't work) and will likely be challenged to think more deeply about "why we do things the way we do things".
Thus the advocacy community and advocates of current programs will be asked to answer questions like:
- Are you delivering the outcomes for which you are paid?
- Is there a more efficient and cost effective way to achieve the needed outcomes?
- Are others duplicating your service at less or more cost?
- At the state level, do we have the right infrastructure in place?
- What improvements have been made to program operations over the last 10 or more years?
As the FY 2016 Budget begins to take form, likely these questions and concerns may be a growing focus of discussions.
Caregiver Wage, Overtime Protections Struck Down
A federal judge has put a stop to a new rule requiring that in-home care workers assisting people with disabilities be paid minimum wage and overtime.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon said this week that the U.S. Department of Labor overstepped its authority when it moved to mandate pay protections for caregivers.
Under a law dating to back to the 1970s, in-home care workers have been classified much like baby sitters and exempt from many wage protections. The Obama administration sought to change that, instituting regulations - which were set to take effect this month - mandating that the nation's 2 million home care workers receive at least the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour and qualify for time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours per week.
Trade groups representing agencies that employ many in-home care workers challenged the new requirements and in two rulings - one in late December and a second this week - Leon put a halt to the Labor Department regulations.
"While the Department of Labor's concern about the wages of home care providers is understandable, Congress is the appropriate forum in which to debate and weigh the competing financial interests in this very complex issue affecting many families," Leon wrote in his latest opinion.
Following the ruling, the Labor Department said it stands by the regulations and is considering all of its legal options. (which could include an appeal)