According to the State House News Service, the House Ways and Means Committee is drafting its budget plan and, “lawmakers are only giving the general public an opportunity to weigh in throughout next week. Unlike in-person hearings of previous cycles that enabled people to directly address lawmakers, or even the internet hearings that facilitated virtual interactions, lawmakers are only accepting written testimony this year.”
This is a major departure from previous sessions, when the public could listen in or provide testimony in person or in a live online format. MassFiscal sent a letter to all the House lawmakers warning them that Speaker Ron Mariano and his House leadership should use this once in a generation opportunity to welcome increased access to citizen input, not restrict it. A copy of the letter may be found here.
“Despite the Massachusetts State House finally reopening after 714 days of being closed to the public, the House budget process seems to be leaving the public in the dark more than ever. As a good government watchdog organization, MassFiscal is now concerned that while the doors to the building may have finally been reopened, lawmaker’s minds might still be closed to public input,” stated Paul Diego Craney, spokesperson for Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.
“With the unprecedented amount of federal funds originating from tax dollars flowing in, and record-breaking amounts in over collections from state taxpayers, there is no better time to welcome the public’s input and discussion on how House leadership should prioritize spending during this influx of funds. Unfortunately, Speaker Ron Mariano is doing the opposite by limiting public interaction by allowing only written testimony,” continued Craney.
“For nearly two years during the uncertainty of the pandemic, taxpayers have been asked to continue to pay taxes and lawmakers should feel obligated to prioritize open discussion on how they want their money spent during this budget process period,” concluded Craney.