Week Ending June 25, 2010
The House and Senate voted on Thursday evening to approve a $27.6 billion compromise budget. The House approved the budget by a vote of 120-28 and the Senate by 33-7. The budget now goes to Governor Patrick for his consideration in advance of the new fiscal year, which begins on July 1st. In addition to spending cuts, the budget was notable for uncertainty surrounding the potential shortfall of $700 million in federal aid that was cut by the US House of Representatives last month. The US House of Representatives cut these federal health funds known as FMAP (totaling $25 billion nationally) as part of a jobs bill. This week the US Senate voted for the third time on legislation that would have appropriated $608 million in temporary federal health care funds for Massachusetts; the bill failed to advance by a vote of 57-41. US Senator Scott Brown voted against advancing the bill and issued a statement citing excessive spending that has contributed to the national debt as the reason behind his vote. As a result of the uncertainty, the final Massachusetts budget includes a percentage of each appropriation that is derived from the FMAP relief fund. This is money that would not be available if Massachusetts does not receive the FMAP funds.
Debate on bill allowing for expanded gaming and the construction of three resort style casinos continued in the Senate this week. On Thursday the Senate voted 25-14 to restrict a referendum on a proposed East Boston casino to residents only of that neighborhood in Boston. Originally the entire city of Boston had been slated to vote on whether to accept a proposed casino within city limits. Also on Thursday, the Senate voted to ban smoking in casinos because of public health concerns and to maintain continuity with the workplace smoking ban in the Commonwealth that is already in place. Debate on the gambling bill is expected to continue today with a final vote expected as early as this afternoon.
According to a poll released this week by Rasmussen Reports, Republican Charles Baker is gaining on Governor Patrick in the Massachusetts race for Governor. In the most recent poll, Patrick receives 41%, Republican Charlie Baker receives 34% and Independent Tim Cahill receives 16%. In last month’s poll, Governor Patrick had maintained a double-digit lead over his two closest rivals which has now been cut to 7%. The poll has a margin of error of 4.5%. The poll of 500 registered Massachusetts voters also found diminished support for offshore drilling and 56% of voters approving of President Obama’s performance. Voters were split on whether to repeal the national health care reform law.
Although Massachusetts added 15,800 jobs last month, the unemployment rate rose in seven areas that are tracked by the state. Despite significant job additions in the Boston-Cambridge-Quincy area, the unemployment rate increased in cities such as Fall River, Fitchburg, Lawrence, Leominster, Springfield and Worcester. According to the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the 7,000 jobs added in the private sector were in the leisure and hospitality, education, health services and construction fields.
Another indicator was announced this week that gave signs of an improving economy. Sales of homes in Massachusetts rose for the fourth straight month. Single-family home sales in May rose more than 36% and year to date sales are up 29%. The median sales price for a home in the Commonwealth was $290,000 last month.
**Note – the budget was laid before the governor last night for his signature/veto’s. He has 10 days to sign.**
John Nunnari, Assoc AIA
BSA/AIA MA Public Policy Director