Senate Passes $30.5 Billion Budget
This week the Senate voted to approve its version of the $30.51 billion FY2012 budget bill after a condensed two days of debate on the 599 amendments filed. The budget does not include any new taxes and dramatically reduces the use of non-recurring revenues. In contrast to previous budgets (the FY2011 budget relied on $1.75 billion in onetime revenues) the budget passed by the Senate last night reduces the use of one time revenue to $440 million. According to Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer (D-Barre), the Senate budget represents the smallest year-over-year increase in state spending in 10 years. The House and Senate versions of the FY12 budget will now move to conference committee, where the differences between the two bills will be reconciled. Conference Committee members are expected to named next week.
Municipal Health Reform Goes to Conference Committee
Because both the House and Senate budgets included different approaches to municipal health reform, the specifics of that reform will be worked out in conference committee negotiations before the budget is finalized. Both branches claim their versions will save municipalities $100 million in health care costs. Public employee unions issued a more measured response to the Senate’s version of the budget, in contrast to the House plan which enraged public employee unions. Both the House and Senate versions would give municipalities more autonomy in designing health insurance plans, including the setting of co-payments and deductibles, and limit collective bargaining.
Potential Democratic Challenger to Scott Brown Approached
US Senator Patty Murray of Washington State, director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, confirmed this week that the Democratic Party was in talks with a number of potential candidates to unseat US Senator Scott Brown for the 2012 election. The New York Times reported that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid approached Harvard law professor and consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren about her candidacy. Most recent polls have shown Brown with a significant lead over potential Democratic opponents for the 2012 election. In a Suffolk/7NEWS poll from April, 55% of voters believe Brown deserves to be re-elected. Brown presently has $8.3 million in his campaign account. The Democratic primary is scheduled for September 18, 2012.
Consumer Confidence Index Down
Consumer confidence fell for the first time since July 2010, dropping significantly in the 2nd quarter of the year. The Massachusetts consumer confidence index is currently at 67, down from 74 in the first quarter. Any score below 100 indicates that consumers are more negative than positive. According to Mass Insight President William Guenther, high unemployment and concerns over housing continue to undermine consumer confidence in the state. For the past two years, the consumer confidence index in Massachusetts has been above nationwide consumer confidence measures.
John Nunnari, Assoc AIA
Executive Director, AIA MA
MA Chapter of American Institute of Architects
The Architects Building
52 Broad Street, Boston MA 02109-4301