Budget Update

As you know, we have been working to advocate for our budget priorities and to keep you updated along the way.  The House debated and finalized its budget last week.  The final House numbers for our line-items of interest are included below.  Next step is for the Senate Ways and Means Committee to release its budget on May 17, followed by debate in the Senate starting May 24.  Keep your eyes open for forthcoming alerts and updates.

Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC)

  • Request: $27,000,000
  • Governor’s Budget: $17,170,000
  • House Ways and Means Budget: $18,000,000
  • House Final Budget: $18,500,000

Representative Ruth Balser filed amendment #847 seeking for an additional $9 million.  Though it did not pass, the amendment was co-sponsored by 94 (!!) Representatives, about 60% of the chamber, and likely helped pave the way for the extra $500,000 that came by way of the final “Perfecting Amendment,” #1293.  Thank you to everyone who contacted your Representatives and requested their support – it clearly made a difference and thank you to the House for demonstrating its commitment to this issue!

Trial Court

  • Request: $654,374,856 + Modules
  • Governor’s Budget: $638,606,000
  • House Ways and Means Budget: $639,900,000 (including Specialty Courts module)
  • House Final Budget: $639,900,000 (including Specialty Courts module)

The House budget ended where it began for the Trial Court, roughly $17 million below its maintenance request.  We are hoping to see more from the Senate, otherwise, the Trial Court will likely have to lay off around 300 individuals, resulting in decreased service at courthouses already stretched thin.

Statewide Housing Court Expansion

  • Request: $2,400,000
  • Governor’s Budget: $1,000,000
  • House Ways and Means Budget: $0
  • House Final Budget: $0

The BBA has been advocating for the statewide expansion of Housing Court for the last year. Housing Court is a special court session conducted by experienced and expert judges.  They operate out of already existing court houses, providing landlords and tenants with a special legal forum to resolve disputes, as well as code enforcement, mortgage fraud, and numerous complex housing matters.

The total cost to the state for the expansion is estimated to be roughly $2.4 million per year.  The Governor’s budget included $1 million for Specialty Court, enough to get it started and operational for 6 months, but the House did not follow his lead, leaving this measure out of its budget entirely.  We hope the Senate will follow the Governor’s lead and include funding for this important expansion.

We look forward to keeping you updated on the latest budget development and will likely be asking you to contact your Senators at key moments of the Senate budget process in the coming weeks.  We will continue our advocacy as well, and have meeting lined up with a number of Senators to spread the word on our budget priorities.

– Jonathan Schreiber
Legislative and Public Policy Manager
Boston Bar Association