Tag Archives: state budget

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 28, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Compost for the Climate

Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!Did you know food waste makes up one-quarter of our state’s trash? That means biodegradable, plant-based materials are needlessly ending up in landfills and contributing to climate change. But there’s an easy fix – composting. Pledge to start today!

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

Guiding Strong Ocean Management

Our advocacy director Jack Clarke has been reappointed by Governor Baker to the Massachusetts Ocean Advisory Commission. The Commission provides guidance on implementation of the state Ocean Management Plan, along with other ocean management issues.

State Budget Update

The Massachusetts Senate passed their version of the FY20 budget last week, including amendments funding Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum and a needed increase for the CPA Trust Fund. Next, the House and Senate budgets will be reconciled in conference committee

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

Fish and Game Day at the State House

Mass Audubon congratulates former state Senator, Representative, and Environmental Affairs Secretary Bob Durand on his recent appointment to the Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife Board.

Bob Durand and Mass Audubon’s Jack Clarke

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 20, 2019

Action You Can Take This Week: Support a Strong State Budget

The Massachusetts Senate begins debate on their version of the state budget tomorrow, and you can help make sure they strengthen funding for the Community Preservation Trust Fund and Mass Audubon’s Trailside Museum. Ask your Senator today to support amendments for CPA and for Trailside!

Trailside’s work includes the Snowy Owl Project. Photo credit: USFWS

Climate Central

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • This May, hundreds of valedictorians across the US will deliver the same commencement message on the need for climate action.
  • Boston makes the “A” list for cities leading the world on climate action!
  • The South Shore Climate Change Symposium, co-hosted by Mass Audubon’s North River Wildlife Sanctuary, was a successful day of idea sharing
State Representative Joan Meschino was a speaker at the South Shore Climate Change Symposium

Choosing Renewable Power for Boston

Incorporating renewable energy into local power choice programs helps communities take emission reductions into their own hands. We submitted comments on the City of Boston’s draft Community Choice Power Aggregation plan, urging them to adopt the strongest renewable component possible.

Speaking Up for Healthy Soils

We also submitted testimony with partners in support of legislation to promote healthy soils statewide. Soils are essential for life on earth, and policy makers have an important role to play in planning for their long-term health.

Drumlin Farm produce

The Plastic Problem

Mass Audubon weighed in on this recent Cape Cod Times article on our plastic pollution problem – a global issue that includes significant impacts along Massachusetts coasts.

Photo credit: NOAA

Next Steps Needed on Adaptation

We joined partners in supporting state legislation that would provide a needed framework – consistent, predictable policies and regulations – to support the progress Massachusetts has made so far on adaptation planning.

Coastal properties like these are vulnerable to sea level rise and storm damage. Photo credit: John Phelan

The Beacon Hill Weekly Roundup – May 13, 2019

Ask Your State Senator to Support Trailside Funding

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation, and is home to programs like the Snowy Owl Project. Help make sure Trailside gets the state budget funding it needs.

Climate Central

Photo credit: Ryan O’Sullivan

A curated selection of climate news from Mass Audubon’s climate change program manager

  • See how much you know about what can be done to fight climate change with this quiz
  • This infographic from our Community Preservation Coalition explores how the Community Preservation Act also helps combat climate change

Improving Outdoor Opportunities

Photo credit: National Park Service

We submitted testimony last week in support of An Act Establishing the Office of Outdoor Recreation, which would work across sectors like public health, tourism, and economic development to promote recreational opportunities in Massachusetts’ outdoor spaces.

Drumlin Farm Education Honored at State House

Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm has received the Secretary’s Award for Excellence for their Riverschools Project, a collaboration with local schools to strengthen awareness and appreciation of river resources. Congratulations to the team!

Input Needed: Culvert and Small Bridge Replacements

Photo credit: MassDER

Climate change is a frequent concern for communities when dealing with culvert and small bridge infrastructure, since they’ll need to accommodate increased storm flows and flood levels. The state’s Culvert and Small Bridge Working Group is seeking public input as they develop recommendations to address these and other challenges

Support Trailside in the State Budget

As the FY20 state budget continues its progress through the State House, we’re at a crucial point for Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum funding.

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.

Trailside director Norman Smith preparing to release a snowy owl

Although the Governor’s original FY20 budget did not include funding for Trailside, Senator Walter Timilty has filed an amendment requesting $1 million for the site. The Senate begins debate of their version of the FY20 budget on May 21. 

Over the past few years, Trailside has faced a continuing revenue shortfall and received only a fraction of the state funding needed to sustain its operation and public programs. Senator Timilty’s amendment is a chance to reclaim that much-needed funding.

You can help! Please contact your state Senator and ask them to cosponsor Senator Timilty’s Amendment #908 for Trailside, and to support the amendment when it comes up for debate next week. A quick call or email can make a big difference. Thank you for your advocacy!

Help Trailside Secure Needed Funding

Update 5/29/18: Good news – the version of the Senate FY19 budget that ultimately passed included $300,000 for Trailside! Thanks to everyone who contacted their state senator in support of Trailside funding. A conference committee will now have to reconcile the House and Senate budget versions, and we’ll be advocating for the highest funding levels for our priority programs.

As the FY19 state budget continues its progress through the State House, we’re at a crucial point for Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum funding.

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.

Trailside director Norman Smith before releasing a Snowy Owl to safety. Photo: Raymond MacDonald

Although the Governor’s original FY19 budget did not include funding for Trailside, the House version included $50,000 thanks to an amendment filed by Representative William Driscoll.

Now the Senate is gearing up to debate their version of the budget on May 22, and Senator Walter Timilty has filed an amendment requesting $1 million for Trailside.

Over the past few years, Trailside has faced a continuing revenue shortfall and received only a fraction of the state funding needed to sustain its operation and public programs. Senator Timilty’s amendment is a chance to reclaim that much-needed funding.

You can help! Please contact your state Senator and ask them to support Senator Timilty’s Amendment #935 for Trailside. A quick call or email can make a big difference. Thank you for your advocacy!

Action You Can Take This Week – Massachusetts Cultural Council

Last week Governor Baker reviewed and finalized the FY18 state budget, and there was certainly reason to celebrate – it included $250,000 for Blue Hills Trailside Museum’s annual operating budget.

Unfortunately though, during his review the Governor also vetoed line item funding (resulting in a 14% cut) for the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), which provides funding for arts, humanities, and science programs. The legislature can still decide to override any of the Governor’s vetoes, which Mass Audubon will be encouraging them to do for these line item. You can encourage your legislator too!

The MCC has strengthened Mass Audubon’s ability to provide nature-based education to citizens across the Commonwealth by funding upgrades to our visitor centers. As a result of these contributions, we are able to accommodate increasing demand and ensure universal accessibility for people of all abilities.

Action Alert: Critical Time for Trailside’s Budget

Late last week, the conference committee in charge of reconciling the House and Senate versions of the state budget released their $40.2 billion version. Now the budget heads to Governor Baker’s desk for his approval, where he can veto or reduce line-item funding.

Right now, $250,000 has been allocated to Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum for FY18. This funding is more important than ever; due to a downturn in state revenues Trailside received no operating funds last year, and this year’s allocation represents only a fraction of what is needed to sustain Trailside and its public programs.

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operates the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year. Trailside welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year and is home to the Snowy Owl Project.

We must ensure that Governor Baker retains this funding in the budget and you can help! Call Governor Baker’s office at 617-725-4005 (or use the email form here) and ask him to support Trailside funding (within line item 2810-0100) in the state budget.

Thank you for your advocacy!

Mass Audubon Supports the Green Budget

This week Mass Audubon attended the launch of the FY2018 Green Budget, an annual report by our colleagues at the Environmental League of Massachusetts. Mass Audubon continues to support its recommendations for 1% of the state operating budget to support environmental programs and agencies – a goal Governor Baker committed to during his campaign.

As the Massachusetts Senate hosts their “Commonwealth Conversations” series around the state to hear from constituents about their priorities, let’s make sure conservation is part of the conversation!  We encourage you to attend a session and let Senators know the Green Budget is a priority for you. One penny of every state operating dollar is not too much to ask to fund environmental protection and our state parks! Currently, only half a penny of every dollar is going to support environmental agencies.  Agencies like the Department of Environmental Protection and Department of Conservation and Recreation have taken especially big hits in recent years.

To learn more about this topic, check out Jack Clarke’s recent Op Ed on the importance of budgeting 1% for nature.

Green Budget report launch event at the Massachusetts State House. Photo credit: Environmental League of Massachusetts

One Percent for Nature

by Jack Clarke

Note: This Op Ed is also running in several regional newspapers statewide, including the Gloucester Daily Times.

Last spring on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio, Governor Charlie Baker called the state’s park system a “really big deal” and said there was “no question” that over the past decade “the state’s disinvested in this stuff.” He then reiterated his campaign promise to dedicate 1 percent of the overall state budget to the environment. “We’re going to get there. It’s going to take a few years,” he said. This month he files his third budget, and it is time “to get there.”

There is little question that Massachusetts has a revenue problem, not a spending problem, and the nature of Massachusetts is short-changed because of it.

Of this year’s $40 billion state budget, only 0.6 percent is devoted to environmental programs – programs like the establishment and operation of state forests and parks, along with programs that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the lands we live, work and play on.

Halibut Point State Park in Rockport is one of the approximately 150 state parks in Massachusetts. Photo credit: MassDCR

Spending on the environment needs to be increased to no less than 1 percent of the overall state budget, especially as the White House and Congress prepare to cut spending on America’s environmental well-being.

The last time we spent 1 percent on nature was in 2009. And even though he promised to achieve that 1 percent, last year Gov. Baker actually cut environmental spending by 7 percent compared to the previous year.

Budget cuts are made for two reasons:

First, in preparing the budget and figuring out how much they will have to spend, the Legislature makes overly optimistic projections on what will be available through tax revenues throughout the year. When the money fails to come in, shortfalls arise with environmental line-items often most vulnerable.

Second, once they imagine how much money will be available, the Legislature drafts a budget based on its revenue projections and then employs gimmicks to patch it together. Lawmakers count things such as funds set aside for rainy day emergencies, delaying on-time payment of bills, selling of state property, and state pensions and retiree health care funds.

The Legislature then submits to the governor a so-called balanced budget with a built-in structural deficit. The dance continues with the governor then vetoing certain sections of the Legislature’s budget; the Legislature then overrides those vetoes, and the governor once again cuts budget items for his agencies to reflect a shortfall in revenue income.

The second reason environmental and other basic programs are underfunded is because of a lack of actual revenue.

Revenues are not keeping up with costs. We are not over-spending, and we have not had any spending increases. As the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center points out, general expenditures are consistently at 12 cents for every dollar the state collects. And that’s where they have been since the late 1980s.

The state Division of Ecological Restoration (DER) also receives funding from the state budget. Here, DER assisted with a habitat restoration project as  former cranberry bog was transformed in the headwaters of the Eel River. Photo credit: Massachusetts Division of Ecological Restoration

The problem is tax cuts. Cutting programs is always part of solving state financial problems. But we have to realize that we do not do more with less, as the voters demand; we do less with less. Those cuts started in a big way at the turn of the millennium when, in a ballot initiative, Bay Staters voted to cut the state income tax rate from 5.95 percent to 5 percent. That translates into an annual $2 billion reduction in what the state can spend on the public’s health, safety and well-being.

The Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation has shown that the gap between projected revenue and spending to maintain current services is $800 million. So the problem is on the tax side. Before the 2000 initiative, the state was taking in 7 cents on every dollar earned — now it’s around 6 cents.

Last year, the governor’s fiscal year 2017 budget recommended $200 million for environment and recreation programs, a cut of $14 million below the fiscal year 2016 budget. Those cuts have to stop and the environmental budget must be restored.

Ironically, it is one of the smallest parts of the state budget that effects every resident of the commonwealth and is often the first to be cut. It is time for Beacon Hill to get back to devoting 1 percent to the nature of Massachusetts in the upcoming budget.

Jack Clarke is director of public policy and government relations.

Help Trailside Keep its Funding in the State Budget

Update: Great news! The legislature voted to override the Governor’s veto that included Trailside funding, restoring the full $500,000 originally designated for Trailside. Thanks to everyone who contacted their legislator to help make this happen!

Original post: In reviewing the budget submitted to him by the legislature earlier this month, Governor Baker made $256 million in cuts through vetoes. Unfortunately, these cuts included Mass Audubon’s Blue Hills Trailside Museum funding.

Legislators began making overrides to select vetoes last weekend, but so far they have not taken action on the Trailside cut. They still have a chance to make this change during formal sessions this weekend. Please contact your legislator to tell them you support funding for Trailside in the budget.

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Trailside Museum Sanctuary Director Norman Smith educating visitors. Photo © Kent Harnois

Trailside is the interpretive center for the state-owned Blue Hills Reservation and features a natural history museum and outdoor exhibits of rescued wildlife. Mass Audubon operate the museum in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, which means we receive a crucial component of Trailside’s funding through the state budget each fiscal year.

A quick call or email to your legislator asking them to support Trailside funding (within line item 2810-0100) in the state budget can make a big difference. Thank you for your advocacy!