Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Representative Jones’ Statement on Governor Baker’s Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Proposal

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) released the following statement today regarding Governor Charlie Baker’s proposed $40.5 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2018:

“Governor Baker’s budget proposal charts a fiscally responsible course for the Commonwealth that emphasizes a commitment to our cities and towns and accountability to the state’s taxpayers.

I am thrilled to see the Baker-Polito Administration continue to prioritize local aid for our cities and towns.  Maintaining strong state-municipal partnerships is crucial to ensuring that all residents of the Commonwealth share in the state’s prosperity.  The proposed $91 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid and $40 million increase in unrestricted local aid will help further this goal by providing critical funding for schools, public safety and other important municipal services, and form a strong starting point for our local aid discussions.

The Governor’s budget continues to take positive steps towards reducing the state’s structural deficit, and significantly reduces the use of one-time spending revenues. His budget not only avoids drawing from the state’s stabilization fund, but also calls for a portion of the state’s tax revenues to be deposited directly into the fund every year before other spending priorities are set.  This is a sensible approach that will help build the fund so that vital state programs and services residents rely on can be preserved during future economic downturns.

Governor Baker has made it clear that he will oppose any plans to implement a broad-based tax increase.  As the budget process moves to the Legislature, I am hopeful the House and Senate will follow this same philosophy when crafting their respective spending plans.  I look forward to working with my colleagues and the Administration over the next few months to develop a budget that will address many of the needs of the citizens of the Commonwealth.”         

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Representative Whipps Named to Special Commission Studying State Fire Code Regulations

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed Representative Susannah Whipps (R-Athol) to serve as his designee on a special commission that will study the regulation of cutting, welding and other hot work processes governed by the state fire code to enhance the safety of the public and first responders.

Representative Whipps is one of four state legislators serving on the 11-member special commission, which will also include State Fire Marshal Peter Ostroskey, Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn, and five members appointed by Governor Charlie Baker with backgrounds in public safety and related construction trades.

“As the owner of a company that manufactures equipment for the water and wastewater industry, Representative Whipps is very familiar with the regulations and standards governing welding work,” said Representative Jones.  “Susannah’s knowledge in this area will be an asset to the special commission as it considers potential changes to the current state fire code.”

As part of its investigation, the special commission will study the current requirements for issuing licenses and permits for hot work processes that are capable of initiating a fire or explosion to determine if these requirements provide adequate protections.  The special commission will also consider the use of supervised details and firewatchers; the adequacy of fees to cover inspection, oversight and other municipal costs; the deterrent effect of penalties for violations; cost recovery assessment for damages resulting from the failure to comply with rules and regulations; the training and certification required to perform the work; and other ways to enhance work safety.

The special commission will file a report containing its findings, including any proposed legislation, by June 1, 2017.

A seventh generation Athol resident who previously served for nine years on the Athol Board of Selectmen, Representative Whipps was recently re-elected to her second two-year term in the Massachusetts Legislature.  She represents the Second Franklin District, which consists of the communities of Erving, Gill, New Salem, Orange, Warwick, Wendell, Belchertown, Athol, Petersham, Phillipston, Royalston, and Templeton.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Representative Dooley Named to Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government

House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has appointed Representative Shawn Dooley (R-Norfolk) to serve as his designee on the Task Force on Integrity in State and Local Government.

Created at the request of House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo, the task force will conduct an investigation and study of the existing legal and regulatory framework governing the conduct of all state, county and municipal elected officials, as well as appointed public employees. The investigation will include a review of the state’s Conflict of Interest Law, the Financial Disclosure Law, and the regulations of the State Ethics Commission.

“Representative Dooley brings a unique perspective to the task force, having served in government at both the local and state levels,” said Representative Jones.  “Shawn’s experience and expertise will be an asset to the task force as it works to identify ways to clarify and strengthen the state’s ethics laws.”

Representative Dooley is one of six state legislators serving on the 13-member task force, which is being co-chaired by the chairs of the House and Senate Ethics Committees and the House and Senate chairs of the Joint Committee on State Administration & Regulatory Oversight.  Other members serving on the task force include Attorney General Maura Healey; the respective Chief Legal Counsels for the Governor, the Senate and the House; and three members with expertise on issues relating to ethics, public integrity or campaign finance who will be appointed by Governor Charlie Baker, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Speaker DeLeo.

The task force will file a report of its findings with the Governor, Senate President and Speaker on or before March 15, 2017.

Representative Dooley represents the Ninth Norfolk District, which is comprised of the towns of Norfolk, Plainville, Wrentham, Medfield, Millis and Walpole.  He previously served as the Norfolk Town Clerk and as the Chairman of the Norfolk School Committee before winning a special election in January of 2014.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Rep. Brad Jones Re-Elected as Minority Leader

Representative Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading) has been unanimously re-elected by his Republican colleagues to serve an eighth term as Minority Leader of the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

“Having the support of the entire House Republican Caucus means a tremendous amount to me, and I thank my colleagues for their continued confidence in my ability to lead our Caucus as we embark on a new legislative session,” said Representative Jones. “I am especially grateful for the continued support of the residents of Lynnfield, Middleton, Reading and North Reading and the trust they have placed in me to serve as their voice on Beacon Hill.”

A lifelong resident of North Reading, Representative Jones was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, and has served as House Minority Leader since 2002.  He was recently re-elected to his twelfth term representing the 20th Middlesex District.

Representative Jones continues to maintain his perfect voting record.  He has cast 6,554 consecutive roll call votes and has not missed a single vote in his nearly 23 years in the Legislature.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Representative Kane: Governor Baker Made Right Decision in Issuing His 9C Cuts

The following column by Representative Hannah Kane (R-Shrewsbury) appeared in the January 1 edition of the Boston Globe's West Section:

The governor is empowered to use his authority to reduce spending if the Secretary of Administration and Finance determines that budgeted revenues will not be sufficient to meet budgeted expenditures. Disappointing tax revenues and growing exposure for underfunded accounts such as public defense services for indigent defendants and family homelessness services have prompted Governor Charles Baker to use spending cuts to bring this year’s state budget back into balance.

The reductions are one quarter of one percent of the $39.25 billion state budget. While the scope does not lessen the impacts of these cuts, which affect several of my own priorities, we must be candid in the overall fiscal environment of the Commonwealth.

The Baker-Polito Administration took office in January 2015 inheriting serious fiscal challenges: a $765 million mid-year fiscal 2015 budget deficit and a nearly $1.8 billion shortfall looming for fiscal 2016. The fiscal 2015 budget gap remained despite governor Deval Patrick having already implemented over $198.1 million in cuts himself in the fall of 2014.

The culprit of this persistent gap is expenses that far outpaced yearly tax revenue growth. The fiscal 2015 budget that Governor Patrick signed into law was up 5.6 percent from the preceding year. Compounding the aggressive expense growth was an unhealthy reliance on the state’s stabilization — or “rainy day” — fund and one-time revenue sources to balance the budget for eight years.

The Baker-Polito Administration, working with the House and Senate, has brought fiscal restraint to Beacon Hill. Together, we are seeking to rebuild the Commonwealth’s long-term fiscal health by controlling expenses, rebuilding the rainy day fund reserves, and paying down debt, while achieving balanced budgets that provide increases in local aid and education funding and address such priorities as defeating the opioid epidemic and bringing reforms to the Department of Children and Families — all without tax increases. While debate on the necessity and merits of timing will always accompany the painful decision to authorize cuts, the administration strongly believes that the fiscal indicators necessary to trigger their use are clear.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Representative Jones: Governor Baker's 9C Cuts Were Unfortunate, But Necessary

The following column by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. appeared in the January 1 issue of the Boston Globe's North Section:

The $98 million in budget cuts announced by Governor Baker on Dec. 6 were unfortunate but necessary.

While there’s never a good time to make cuts of this magnitude, accusing the governor of acting prematurely ignores the fiscal realities the state is facing. It also conveniently overlooks the fact that Governor Baker already had delayed taking action months ago in deference to requests by legislative leaders.

Governor Baker had no hidden agenda in implementing his cuts. He was only trying to achieve one simple but important policy objective: producing a constitutionally required balanced budget.

Faced with a continued softness in revenues persisting through the first five months of the fiscal year, Governor Baker had no choice but to act. In January 2016, the state was projecting $26.9 billion in revenues for fiscal 2017, a 4.3 percent increase over fiscal 2016. When tax collections began falling short of projections in the spring, fiscal 2017 revenue estimates were reduced to $26.2 billion. Then, in October, revenues were again revised downward, to $26 billion, reflecting 3.1 percent growth over fiscal 2016.

In July, the governor vetoed about $265 million from the original fiscal 2017 budget, due to his belief that the Legislature drastically underfunded several areas of the budget based on the historical amount these programs typically received for funding. The Legislature later restored most of the governor’s original cuts, leaving the problems of underfunding, and thus an unbalanced budget, in place.

In addition, revenue projections used by the Legislature for its budget were reduced by $175 million in October. Revenues remained below this lower benchmark by about $21 million through November. This $195 million revenue shortfall, coupled with historical spending exposures, necessitated the administration’s cuts.

Governor Baker has indicated a willingness to consider reversing some of these cuts if the revenue outlook improves, but it is still very much an open question whether the resources will actually be available to do so. The bottom line of how we will pay for these items remains.

I am hopeful that revenues in December and beyond will rebound, that spending exposures will be less than anticipated, and that we can then have a conversation about restoring at least some of the cuts in the months ahead.