Senate Ways & Means released its $33.9 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2014 on Wednesday, May 15. Senators are reviewing the proposal and preparing to debate the entire budget next Wednesday, May 22. Here’s what you should know:
Senate Ways & Means funded the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC) at $12 million; this falls short of what our civil legal aid programs need to avoid further cuts. The Senate’s $12 million appropriation is the same level of funding MLAC received in the final Fiscal Year 2013 budget, but $3.5 million less than MLAC’s request for Fiscal Year 2014.
The good news is that Senator Katherine Clark has already filed an amendment to fund MLAC at $15.5 million. But filing an amendment is not enough. We need other Senators to get on board – co-sign her amendment and place calls to the Senate President and Chair of Senate Ways & Means – and fight for Senator Clark’s amendment. This is where the BBA’s collective advocacy efforts can make a big impact. Look for President J.D. Smeallie’s action alert tomorrow morning, and then call, email, and tweet your state senator. We need a critical mass of support on this very important issue.
The Courts also need our help. Senate Ways & Means funded the Trial Court at $579; this is $10 million less than the Trial Court’s maintenance request for Fiscal Year 2014. We are disappointed to see that Senate Ways & Means failed to include any funding for a way overdue judicial pay raise.
Massachusetts judges last saw a pay increase in 2006. We expect that amendments will be filed before the Friday deadline to include money to implement the recommendations of the “Guzzi Commission” regarding increasing judicial compensation. The Guzzi Commission recommendations would raise the compensation for Massachusetts’ judges from 48th lowest in the nation to 28th, when adjusted for cost of living.
– Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association