Rep. Lyons Explains Why He Voted Against The FY 2015 State Budget
State Rep. Jim Lyons, R-Andover.
By State Rep. Jim Lyons
The following are the reasons that Representative Lombardo and I voted against the $36.5 Billion state budget:
1. The Precipitous Decline in Local Aid
Since hitting a high of over $1.3 Billion in the FY08 Budget, unrestricted local aid has consistently been sacrificed as a budgetary priority by the power brokers on Beacon Hill. With local communities being force to make budget cuts and cutting back on essential services, we find it impossible to vote for a budget that underfunds local aid by over $400,000,000 from its 2008 level.
2. The Use of Tax Funded Benefits for Unqualified Recipients
Since our election to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2010, one of the biggest issues we have confronted is the unwillingness to address the issue of taxpayer dollars being spent on unqualified recipients. While the total number is believed to be in excess of $1.8 Billion (http://www.fairus.org/states/Massachusetts), the Administrations lack of transparency on the issue is extremely troubling.
Specific instances of this type of spending that the Administration has been forthcoming with are the $93 Million spent on MassHealth benefits to ineligible recipients (Secretary Bigby Letter to Rep. Lyons, October 2011) and $178 Million spent by the Health Safety Net on ineligible recipients (Secretary Bigby Letter to Rep Lyons, June 2012). Until the administration is completely honest with the taxpaying citizens of the Commonwealth about where and how their hard earned dollars are being spent, we feel it would be irresponsible to vote to authorize such spending.
3. Unchecked Expansion of State Spending
Since the Patrick Administration took office, state spending has increased by over 25%. If the budget continues at this rate of expansion, it is poised to top $40 Billion for the first time in our history in the very near future. It took 315 years for the budget of the Commonwealth to reach the roughly $27 Billion mark that Governor Patrick found it at when he took office. The reckless spending priorities of the Democrats are poised to have added $10 Billion to it in just eight years.
At the same time that state spending has grown unchecked, the Democrats have begun a massive expansion of the state bureaucratic machine. Since 2007, it is estimated that the Patrick administration has expanded the number of employees on the state payroll by over 10,000. In addition, the number of state employees earning over $100,000 is up by 25%. With families and small businesses in the Commonwealth struggling to make ends meet every day, we cannot in good conscience vote for a budget that is so focused on the expansion of a political patronage job machine.
4. No Movement towards Lowering Taxes
When the legislature moved to raise the state Sales Tax in 2009, the public was told that the tax hike was an essential move towards preventing devastating cuts to programs across the board (http://www.n2nma.org/news/n2n-in-the-news/house-oks-sales-tax-hike-to-625). In contravention to its stated purpose of “preventing cuts”, however, the sales tax hike has been utilized to dramatically expand state spending over the past 5 years. While state spending has gone up by an average of $1.37 Billion each year since FY10, all moves to consider rolling back the sales tax to its traditional 5% rate have been flatly rejected by Democrat leadership.
Rather than looking towards providing relief to the hard working families and struggling small businesses upon which this expansion of the state government has been saddled, Democrat leadership on Beacon Hill has been looking for new ways to satisfy their insatiable desire to increase spending. In 2013, they took the Tax Vote to end all Tax Votes when they indexed the Gas Tax to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). In doing so they created a mechanism for raising our taxes every year without having to deal with the political consequences of that vote. We cannot in good conscience vote for a state budget that is built upon revenues raised in this manner.
5. Patrick Administration Scandals
Over the past eight years, scandals arising from lack of leadership and oversight have cost the state millions and lead directly to the deaths of several people. The unmitigated disaster that was the Crime Lab Scandal has cost taxpayers an estimated $332 Million cleanup costs, and has led to an untold number of criminals potentially being released. The same state agency that was responsible for the Crime Lab Scandal, the Department of Public Health, was also charged with oversight over compounding pharmacies throughout the state. Their failure to perform this basic function of their department resulted in the deaths of 48 people across the country.
More recently, the soundness of Governor Patrick’s leadership has come into question regarding the Department of Children and Families. Despite Commissioner Olga Roche attempting to resign, it took the deaths of three young children since February for Governor Patrick to accept her resignation and begin an overhaul of that agency. We cannot vote for a budget that does not increase oversight of the State bureaucracy and enact real, meaningful reforms in areas of concern.
6. Budget Process
Another reason we voted against this budget is because of its lack of transparency. Looking at it broadly, the consolidation of amendments and our inability to vote on each line item individually is a major problem. This practice has not been employed forever in Massachusetts, and is not common in other state legislatures in the United States. It designed primarily as a mechanism to protect members from controversial budget votes; by mixing controversial line items with broadly supported line items, the majority party obfuscates the issues at hand and co-opt consensus from members.
The inability to view breakdowns of exactly how each line item is budgeted and spent is a major, long standing problem which we have voiced our opinions on before. Members are frequently asked to vote on multi-billion dollar appropriations with no more than a sentence or two describing its purpose and intended function. While government initiatives such as the Open Checkbook program have made great strides in making state spending more open and transparent, it is currently difficult to link available data to the budgetary process.
More recently, the draconian budget order which kicked off the FY15 budget and framed the entirety of this year’s debate was a major problem. The exclusion of local aid, education funding, and welfare reform as topics of discussion was a major assault on our rights as legislators and severely compromised our ability to advocate for our constituents back home in our districts. We cannot in good conscience vote for a budget until openness and transparency is brought back to the process.
7. Pursuit of a Leftwing Social Agenda and Interference with Parental Rights
The past eight years of Governor Patrick’s tenure provide us with numerous examples of his interference with parental rights, the most recent example of which is the Justina Pelletier case. Despite repeated attempts to discover how much money the Patrick Administration has spent on the Justina Pelletier’s case, the Governor has refused to disclose any information.
In addition, the Governor has drastically increased his usage of executive orders. Just this past year, Governor Patrick, with the support of House Democrats, utilized executive orders to authorize spending our tax dollars on in-state tuition for people who are breaking the rules and to expand state medical benefits to include gender reassignment operations. These are benefits which should not be provided for with our tax dollars and we cannot vote for a budget that authorizes funds in this manner.