Friday, April 12, 2013

House Republican Caucus Offers Amendments to Fiscal Year 2014 Budget

Led by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R- North Reading), the House Republican Caucus has offered comprehensive and targeted amendments to the House Fiscal Year 2014 budget. 

Aimed at improving efficiency and accountability in state government, eradicating waste, fraud and abuse within taxpayer-funded programs, and improving public safety, the amendments offered by House Republicans seek to have an immediate and lasting impact within Massachusetts.

“The amendments we have offered represent a very targeted, yet aggressive approach toward this year’s House Fiscal Year 2014 budget,” said Representative Jones. “The Republican Caucus looks forward to engaging our Democratic colleagues in a lively, fact-based debate on ways to improve the manner in which the Commonwealth delivers services while being judicious and prudent in the way that the taxpayers’ hard-earned money is being spent.”

Highlights of the House Republicans’ budget amendments include:

Lowering of Sales Tax and Income Tax to 5%: Lowers the sales tax from 6.25% to 5% and the income tax from 5.25% to 5% over a five-year period, beginning in tax year 2015;

• Audit of Agency Credit Cards: Mandates an audit of all state agencies that issue credit cards to employees and policies that govern their use;

• Elimination of Paid Counsel for Sex Offenders: Eliminates the statutory right to counsel for sex offender classification hearings, saving the Commonwealth over $1.2 million;

• Comprehensive Electronic Benefits Transfer Abuse Prevention: Seeks to, in part, (1) define appropriate use of cash assistance; (2) establish an online application process for businesses who wish to accept Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT); (3) prohibits out of state EBT card use – except in states contiguous to Massachusetts; (4) establishes an online payment system for rent and utilities and outlines gradual implementation; (5) requires immediate termination of benefits when recipient’s mail is returned to the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) as “undeliverable”; (6) phases in use of UPC-level control for EBT eligible items;

• Study of Highly Paid State Employees: Requires a study to be performed to identify the number of public employees with salaries above $100,000 and a comparison of the job titles or classifications of public employees with salaries about $100,000 and the disparities, if any, between such employees and employees with similar titles or classifications across all branches, offices, departments, agencies and authorities of the Commonwealth;

• Expansive Sex Offender Reform: Makes numerous changes to current sex offender laws by, in part, making Level 1 sex offender information available through request and amending current guidelines to assess the risk of re-offense and degree of dangerousness. The comprehensive amendment would also require that certain enumerated offenses, which indicate a moderate to high risk of re-offense and degree of dangerousness, ensure at least a Level 2 classification;

• Education of Massachusetts Veterans: Provides tuition and fee waivers for veterans and active duty servicepersons who are permanent and legal residents of the Commonwealth, who attend any public institution of higher education, and whose education costs are not entirely covered by the Post 9/11 GI Bill.

The House of Representatives is expected to begin debate of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget on Monday, April 22, 2013.