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Budget Update: Senate Gears up on State Budget - May 18th

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means is planning to release its proposed FY2012 state budget on May 18th in anticipation of debate starting May 25th. According to the State House News Service, the Senate will "take up its version of the House's $30.5 billion fiscal 2012 budget on Wednesday, May 25. Amendments to the Senate budget must be filed by Friday, May 20, at noon.... The budget will be the first for new Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sen. Stephen Brewer, who recently told a group of suburban officials at the State House that the spending plan would likely feature "extraordinary cuts."

The news clip from last night's State House News Service reported the following: SENATE PREZ ON FISCAL 2012: "IT WILL BE THE WORST YEAR" While state tax collections are shattering fiscal 2011 estimates, fiscal 2012 is shaping up as the "worst year" for state government budget writers who are drafting spending plans without the help of billions of dollars in one-time federal funds used the bridge the recession, according to Senate President Therese Murray. "This is going to be really the toughest budget we will have had since the recession," Murray told the South Shore radio station WATD-FM in an interview Thursday morning. "Things are getting better, but for fiscal 2012 we are all going to have to tighten our belts. It will be the worst year." Murray (D-Plymouth) said fiscal 2011 tax collections, which have exceeded estimates by hundreds of millions of dollars, can't be spent in fiscal 2012. The Senate's response to the House's $30.5 billion fiscal 2012 budget was "put to bed" Wednesday night. I's gone to print" Murray said, noting the budget will address a $1.8 billion gap between projected revenues and spending. If tax collections continue to pour in at recent rates, revenues in fiscal 2012 will far surpass the estimates that the House, Senate and Gov. Deval Patrick used to build fiscal 2012 spending plans, creating a more likely scenario for midyear spending bills that Beacon Hill leaders have also approved throughout fiscal 2011.

Coalition members may recall that one of the beneficiaries of the "one-time federal funds" was the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), which received federal funds through ARRA and DOD appropriations - federal funds Congress allocated to help states with the administrative costs from a surge in SNAP applications triggered by the recession. The FY2012 House state budget did not restore/replace this federal admin funding. MLRI will be monitoring the Senate budget closely including funding of DTA programs and services (including the TAFDC clothing allowance), funding for TAFDC and EAEDC, ESP, DTA admin funding for SNAP staff, as well as the state appropriations for housing, health care, child care, emergency shelter, child welfare, and more. We are also monitoring the MEFAP (emergency food) and WIC programs as well as various immigrant related amendments. MLRI and the MIRA Coalition are pleased to report that the House defeated three anti-immigrant amendments during its budget deliberations. It is unclear if the Senate will attempt to legislate non-budgetary matters such as the anti-immigrant restrictions during the FY2012 budget deliberations. Note, the the House did restore $500,000 in state WIC through a budget amendment, but that still leaves a $2.1 million cut to State WIC funding for FY2012. The Mass Public Health Policy Council is working hard on the WIC restoration.

Next Food SNAP Coalition Meeting: Tuesday, May 24th from 10 to Noon. St Francis House, 39 Boylston Street, Boston.