Local reps put focus on youth in budget moves; Amendments target violence
State representatives scrambled to file amendments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars last week after House leaders proposed a $28 billion budget, and Dorchester's delegation was no different, bringing a focus on youth violence prevention programs. As it stood at press time, the Haitian Multi-Service Center would receive $158,000; Close to Home, a domestic violence prevention program, would receive $200,000; and the Ella J. Baker House would get $260,000.
Local lawmakers, including Reps. Marie St. Fleur, Linda Dorcena Forry and Marty Walsh, have signed onto increasing the Shannon Anti-Gang Violence Grant program from $11 million to $15 million; a Department of Public Health youth violence prevention program from $2 million to $7 million; and YouthWorks, a "public sector jobs for teens" program, from $6.7 million to $9.2 million.
A number of the programs were level-funded in the House budget, cutting out $4 million in increases Gov. Deval Patrick had in his version of the budget.
"These are programs that are working," Forry said.
In total, legislators have filed 1,512 amendments. If past budget sessions are any indication, most of them will never make it into the final budget, though they can be viewed on the House's budget Web site, mass.gov/legis/09budget/house. Lawmakers are planning to debate the amendments and the budget next week.
The House's proposed budget, which House leaders said prepares the state for tougher years ahead, increases last year's budget by $1.18 billion, with cuts of $109 million out of this year's line items, and pulls in $396 million from increased corporate tax collections and a $1-per-pack cigarette tax. The proposal also pulls $229 million from the state's $2.2 billion stabilization reserve account, known as the "Rainy Day Fund."
"It's not awful, it's not great," Walsh said. "We have to be smart in how we allocate funds."
"It's going to be tough," added Forry, who pushing to raise funds for Citizen Schools, an after school apprenticeship program for middle schoolers, to $600,000 from $475,000.
Walsh and Forry have also filed an amendment for $200,000 for the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston, Inc., to help them hire additional street workers to help high-risk youth.
Walsh paired up with Rep. St. Fleur, vice chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, for $250,000 for the safe neighborhood initiative pilot program in Dorchester's Bowdoin-Geneva area. In a separate amendment, St. Fleur is asking for $332,500 in community policing grants to head towards the same area and Uphams Corner.
Walsh, who filed dozens of amendments before the Friday deadline, is pushing for increased funds for local health centers, the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, the Tuttle House for the elderly, and the Ella J. Baker House.
The Baker House, a Washington Street community center, was stripped of its funding when it became the focus of controversy two years ago when a counselor there was reportedly accused of rape and paying for sex with a teenage girl.
"The board has been given a mission to get it back on track," and the non-profit shouldn't be punished for problems with management, Walsh said.
Rep. Willie Mae Allen has filed her own share of amendments, including $20,000 for the operation of an affordable housing program at 28 Rockwell St.
After the House passes its version, the Senate is expected to propose its own soon afterwards. Patrick proposed his earlier this year. A final version is due by July 1.
House Republicans said Democrats were sending mixed messages about the state's fiscal situation, and called for restraint in spending.
"It would be prudent for all of us not to be seeking earmarks at this time," said Rep. Daniel Webster, a Hanson Republican.
State House News Service contributed to this report.