Today | House Democratic leaders release a proposed fiscal year 2023 budget.
8 a.m. | Attorney General Maura Healey is the featured guest at a New England Council breakfast.
8:30 a.m. | Boston Mayor Wu presents her proposed fiscal year 2023 municipal budget to the Boston City Council at the annual budget breakfast at City Hall.
10 a.m. | UMass Board of Trustees meets virtually to consider approval of tuition and other mandatory student charges for the 2022-3023 academic year.
10:45 a.m. | Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce hosts retired four-star U.S. Army General Stan McChrystal, who led all U.S. forces in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, for a discussion of his book “Risk: A User’s Guide” and to hear his thoughts on how cities like Boston can prepare for risks.
12 p.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker announces the latest round of Green Community grants in Lawrence.
12 p.m. | Health Policy Commission meets with a plan to vote on the health care cost growth benchmark for 2023 and to take action on Mass General Brigham’s extension request for submitting its performance improvement plan.
2 p.m. | Gov. Charlie Baker visits Salem State University to announce new capital funding for several higher education campuses.
Good Wednesday morning.
It’s House budget day. Speaker Ron Mariano and Ways and Means Chairman Aaron Michlewitz later this morning will release their version of Gov. Charlie Baker’s fiscal year 2023 budget, to be debated after school vacation week. The pair already announced $110 million in new investments for early education this week and said not to look for tax relief in this bill.
So what are we looking for? Here’s three things that were in the governor’s budget to keep an eye out for.
– Expanded Medicare Savings Program. Baker proposed an eligibility expansion that would make 35,000 low-income seniors newly eligible for more than $200 million in federal subsidies to lower costs for things like prescription drugs.
– Elimination of parole and probation fees.
– The administration is taking heat for closing applications this week for federally funded emergency rental assistance, but the governor’s budget included significant increases for housing stability, including $80 million for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program and and $56.9 million for HomeBASE Household Assistance. Combined, that would be $89.9 million more than this fiscal year.
CONSIDER AMORE SKEPTICAL
Earlier this week, the Hildreth Institute released a report documenting what it described as the state’s disinvestment in public higher education over decades, resulting in higher tuition and fees and students taking on more debt to graduate.
Republican auditor candidate Anthony Amore, however, wonders whether the state is really to blame for the high cost of a pubic college degree.
“My initial reaction any time I read a report that says state government isn’t spending enough is skepticism,” Amore told MASSterList in an interview.
Amore, who heads up security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, says if elected he will audit the state’s public universities, including the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he has a child enrolled. The Republican says he’s particularly interested in whether these public institutions are getting a bang for their buck from the major new construction taking place on campuses across the state.
“I’d love to be able to get into the books and see, should the state university system be building new dorms instead of repairing existing one. If the goal is to attract new students, it’s not working. These things cause me concern as someone who pays the bills,” Amore said.
The Amore campaign notes that since 2017 the Massachusetts State College Building Authority has increased its annual budget for new construction projects to over $74 million from $32 million, a 130 percent increase, at the same time student enrollment and residency hall occupancy have declined. He also questioned the amount of public dollars being spent on athletics and coaching salaries, and said the vast majority of audits performed over the last decade have led to relatively minor recommendations for improvement, such as inventory controls and privatizing bookstores.
“It’s a function of the vision of the auditor and I think what you’re seeing in terms of minutia being brought up instead of bigger picture things is a function of having basically a one-party structure on Beacon Hill,” Amore said.
THE DEBATE DEBATE – REPUBLICAN EDITION
One of these days we’ll actually get a debate. But for now, we’ll have to settle for the jockeying and one-upmanship.
Gubernatorial hopeful Chris Doughty said Tuesday that he had accepted invitations to debate his GOP rival Geoff Diehl on May 10 with the Norfolk County Republican Club, as well as proposals for debates before and after the convention in late May from GBH, WCVB and WBZ.
“To help the people make an informed choice, we need to tell them where we stand on the issues. There are so many serious issues confronting our state such as the cost of living, education, the economy and jobs, transportation, and public safety. Each issue deserves more than a thirty second sound bite. Our differences should be aired in public forums in an open discussion of ideas,” Doughty said.
Diehl’s camp, however, said Doughty needs to slow down
“Mr. Doughty has yet to achieve the 15% vote of delegates required at the MassGOP convention in order to proceed past that, nor has he gathered the requisite numbers of signatures to make the ballot in November, so the discussion of Republican primary debates is premature,” Diehl campaign manager Amanda Orlando said.
Diehl, according to Orlando, already told Norfolk County GOP club organizers that he would not be available on May 10, and would discuss and participate in pre-primary debates with Doughty after the convention.
Labor disputes add to uncertainty in Boston schools
Contract talks between the Boston Teachers Union and BPS Superintendent Brenda Cassellius are not going well, reports The Globe’s James Vaznis, raising questions about whether new contracts with teachers and bus drivers will be in place before she leaves her position in June. Vaznis writes that the growing labor unrest comes at a particularly sensitive time for Boston public schools, with the state conducting a review of the system and some talking about receivership to improve performance.
Pittsfield Sen. Adam Hinds, a former UN negotiations team leader and candidate for lieutenant governor, came out against receivership for Boston schools: “The Massachusetts Department of Education should reject the notion of receivership in the Boston Public Schools. We now know that current receiverships haven’t worked. Ranking systems that determine which schools are even considered for receivership are flawed and unfairly target low-income communities and communities of color. And removing local control from democratically elected leaders is rarely a good idea. We can and should find more resources to boost to kids and districts not receiverships or ‘Zones’.”
Precautions being taken to ensure “safe, fun” marathon
Boston on Monday will celebrate the first running of the marathon on its traditional day in April since 2019, but with any large celebration these days risk follows. And Bostonians barely need to be reminded.
COVID-19 cases in Massachusetts continue to climb, prompting Boston Mayor Michelle Wu to urge people who feel sick to stay home on Monday and isolate, reports WCVB’s Matt Reed. “The safety of all our spectators, runners and residents is our top priority,” Wu said. “I want to urge everyone attending this year’s marathon and related gatherings to take precautions when it comes to public health.”
A shooting in a Brooklyn subway station on Tuesday also served as a grim reminder of the other threats that haven’t gone away just because the pandemic is receding. MBTA Transit Police Chief Kenneth Green said their will be an increase police presence on the T Monday, and law enforcement will be using uniformed and plainclothes officers to police the marathon route from Hopkinton with observation posts, security checkpoints, drone equipment and special operations units, Reed writes.
After his sentence was commuted, Koonce granted parole
The Parole Board unanimously approved the parole request of Thomas Koonce, whose first-degree murder conviction in 1992 was commuted by Gov. Charlie Baker and the Governor’s Council earlier this year. Shelley Murphy of the Globe explains that the board, which initially recommended a commutation to Baker, ordered the 54-year-old to spend four months at a residential reentry program in Boston before seeking approval for a “family-sponsored or independent living home plan” and he must stay at home between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., wear an electronic monitoring device, and abide by other restrictions. Baker granted the first two commutations of his governorship when he recommended reducing the sentences of Koonce and another felon William Allen to second degree murder, making them eligible for parole. The Parole Board is expected to make a final decision on Allen next week.
Danvers schools chief to retire amidst criticism over hockey hazing
Danvers School Superintendent Lisa Dana will retire, the town’s School Committee announced Tuesday. The Salem News’ Julie Manganis writes that Dana has been on medical leave since the end of December and faced sharp criticism over her handling of reports of racist and homophobic hazing on the school’s hockey team. Her retirement will be effective Aug. 31.
The Globe’s Bob Hohler also reports that the Danvers School Committee extended Dana’s contract in March 2021 through 2026 at a salary of nearly $197,000, despite complaints in the community about the district’s handling of the hockey case. The committee made no mention in its statement about how, or if, the contact has been renegotiated, Hohler writes.
Henry has the Reds and Pagliuca wants the Blues
Is there room for two Premier League club owners in this town? Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca hopes so. Pagliuca discussed some of the details of the bid he is leading to buy the London-based Chelsea Football Club after the team was put up for sale by Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich after being sanctioned by the British government. Final bids are due Thursday, and Pagliuca’s in one of four to reach this late stage in the process. He promised to make Chelsea, who are the reigning champions of Europe, “habitual winners” and to rehab the club’s London stadium, the Boston Globe’s Michael Silverman reports. Chelsea were knocked out of this year’s Champions League tournament on Tuesday by Real Madrid after nearly staging an improbable comeback. Maybe we could see a friendly match at Fenway in the future between Chelsea and Liverpool, which is, of course, owned by Red Sox owner John Henry.
Wu’s first city budget lands Wednesday
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu will present her first detailed spending plans to the City Council on Wednesday, including a $3.99 billion operating budget and other plans to spend $350 million in flexible American Rescue Plan Act funds received by the city, the Globe’s Emma Platoff reports. Platoff reports that Wu wants to spend $31.5 million in ARPA money on climate, $15 million on early education and child care, and $206 million on various housing efforts, including assistance for first-generation homebuyers and upgrades to public housing units. The mayor is also proposed a 1 percent cut, or about $4 million, to the budget for the Boston Police Department.
Bitterness lingers in Somerset over scrap metal scrap
Kathy Souza helped lead a successful effort in Somerset to shut down a controversial scrap metal export business at Brayton Point – the site of a former coal plant. But she was ousted from the Select Board Monday night in an election that laid bare the divisions that still exist in that South Coast community over her efforts, CommonWealth’s Bruce Mohl reports. Mohl digs into the local political atmosphere in Somerset, writing that things got so nasty in the run-up to the election that state Rep. Patricia Haddad bought and handed out lawn signs on election day that read: “If you care about Somerset, be kind.”
Closing the racial wealth gap
The new president and CEO of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts Nicole Obi sat down with Morning Edition’s Paris Alston on Tuesday to talk about closing the racial wealth gap. BECMA supports Black-owned businesses and communities throughout the state, and last week’s Obi’s organization announced that it had given funds to help all graduating seniors from the Dearborn STEM Academy in Roxbury gain admission to a two-year program at the Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology. “If Massachusetts can close its racial wealth gap, the state economy will grow by $25 billion in just five years. So doing this work is good for Black people and it’s good for all of us in the commonwealth,” Obi said.
Boston Arts Academy divided over Walsh’s legacy
Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh helped deliver funding to the Boston Arts Academy and now some at the school want to repay him by putting his name on a new auditorium. But not everyone thinks that’s a great idea. The Boston Herald’s Sean Philip Cotter writes that some teachers think the timing’s not right to name the theater in a heavily minority school after a “white male who’s not synonymous with the arts.” Others say the funding her brought to the school was just part of the job.
S&P downplays credit risk from temporary gas tax cuts
You’ve heard the excuse, ‘er explanation. Top Democrats have said it would be foolhardy to suspend the state’s 24-cent gas tax to provider drivers with some relief at the pump because that revenue has already been used to guarantee bonds for transportation projects. The state’s debt owners would not be happy, they said. Well, Colin A. Young of the State House News Service reports that S&P Global Ratings undercut that position on Tuesday when it said “temporary state gas tax suspensions, implemented recently by a few U.S. states, and under discussion by others, are unlikely to lead to rating changes on highway user tax-supported debt.”
Baker presses for tax cuts
House Speaker Ron Mariano said the budget plan he will release today will not contain tax cuts sought by the governor, but Gov. Charlie Baker isn’t giving up, reports MassLive’s Alison Kuznitz. “As inflation continues to rip around here, not doing something for renters, not doing something for low-income folks, not doing something for seniors, not doing something for a lot of the people — the childcare piece, in particular, the dependent care piece — we should do these,” Baker told reporters after testifying on his $9.7 billion transportation bond bill.
North Adams takes out the red pen on short-term rental rules
The city of North Adams is proposing to regulate short-term rentals by requiring property owners to register their homes or units with the city and get them inspected. But the plan has received pushback from rental owners, particularly about the cost of bringing older properties up to code, reports The Berkshire Eagle’s Greta Jochem. Now the plan is going back to the mayor’s office for edits.
Five years later, Ethics Commission hearing on ‘Troopergate’ set to begin
The state’s Ethics Commission is scheduled to begin hearing live testimony on Wednesday into whether state police brass and prosecutors ran afoul of ethics rules in the handling of the criminal case of a judge’s daughter, a scandal long-ago dubbed Troopergate. The Telegram’s Brad Petrishen reports there could be as much as nine days’ worth of testimony from those involved over the course of the next three weeks.
Bank on it: Martha’s Vineyard voters endorse transfer tax for housing
So far, so good. Voters in four Martha’s Vineyard communities have given Town Meeting approval for legislation that would create an affordable housing bank on the island, a proposal that still needs backing on local ballots later this spring and from the state Legislature, the MV Times reports.
Give it back: Nipmuc Nation seeks return of ancestral land in Belchertown
Leaders of the Nipmuc Nation are calling on lawmakers to return part of all of a 430-acre farm in Belchertown as a long-term lease on the land expires, Emily Thurlow of the Daily Hampshire Gazette reports. Sen. Eric Lesser called the idea of rematriation a “a worthy effort.”
Stepping back? Romney says he’s undecided on 2024 Senate run
U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney says he’s not sure he’ll seek re-election in 2024, when his bid to keep his Senate seat could coincide with another Donald Trump presidential run. The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports Romney plans to decide his future next year but notes his fundraising efforts have been minimal even as a growing crowd of potential challengers coalesces.
BU lays off 175 from Covid-testing programs – Boston Business Journal
‘Like Christmas morning’: WooSox, fans excited over 2nd season home opener at Polar Park – Telegram & Gazette
Chicopee mayor to name permanent police chief following scandal – MassLive
U.S. inflation jumped 8.5 percent in past year, highest since 1981 – Politico
Oklahoma governor signs a bill to criminalize most abortions – NPR
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