Friday, June 24, 2011

Where's the pork?

It's interesting that Massachusetts legislators have not approved a final budget for Fiscal Year 2012 yet, despite the fact the fiscal year starts just days away on July 1.

The House and Senate adopted differing versions of the budget weeks ago. Since then, negotiators from both branches have been trying to resolve differences in a conference committee.

But, setting aside questions about the fiscal condition of the Commonwealth and value judgments about how state leaders are choosing to deal with them... the differences between House and Senate budget plans don't seem to be that controversial or substantial. Plus, in recent times, most of the interesting spending has been made mid-year in supplemental appropriation bills, not in the budget itself.

So, what's the hold up?

We're not sure. But, we can guess at several possible reasons.

It's possible that the House and Senate aren't really rushing to reach agreement. That could be out of laziness, or a deliberate attempt to stall and deprive Governor Patrick of a full ten-day window to review the budget before he issues vetoes. Or, perhaps a series of bad stories about the Legislature (Cusack, DiMasi, and now a Bulger in the news) has been distracting.

It's also possible that there is a lot of negotiation going on behind the scenes, but that it's not really about the budget at all. For example, it's possible that budget concessions are being used as chits to negotiate future deals on issues like casino gaming, which has been rumored to be waiting in the wings for later this session.

What's the real reason and when will be get a budget in place? Only time will tell.

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