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Cities wait for final budget

By Erin O'Connor

Staff Writer

The Massachusetts State Budget for Fiscal Year 2007 was delayed by two weeks from its official start date due to controversy in how state funds should be allocated. Last year the Budget went into effect June 30, one day before its due date.

Currently the State House in Boston has gone into emergency session to vote on Governor Mitt Romney's line item vetoes and decide which ones should be challenged with overrides.

"The Governor vetoed a half-billion from the budget to eliminate the Legislature from tapping into the rainy day funds," said State Senator Michael R. Knapik,(R-Westfield).

Surplus money that the Legislature had appropriated for the 2007 Budget included $550 million from the state's "rainy day fund," a reserve to cushion state government during hard economic times.

"Without the vetoes, it would shrink the fund from about $2 billion to $1.2 billion," Romney wrote on the Massachusetts government website at

"We will return some of the appropriations to the colleges," said Knapik during Senate sessions on July 14.

"The Governor performed these vetoes because he felt we were spending the piggy bank that is the rainy day fund but the cities and towns have had such a bad year with revenue that they need this surplus," said Representative Don Humason Jr. in an interview with Reminder Publications between House sessions on July 12.

Romney also wrote, "To improve our competitiveness at home and abroad, I recommend making investments in several critical areas. First, my budget increases and more equitably allocates aid to our local school districts. It recommends far-reaching reforms to rapidly turn around failing schools and improve teaching throughout the Commonwealth."

In vetoes he made on July 8, Romney deducted the following proposals recommended by the House and the Senate: $267,238 from Westfield State College; $95,685 from Greenfield Community College; $191, 434 from Holyoke Community College' and $249,410 from Springfield Technical Community College.

In addition he vetoed $1 million in grants for Head Start, $735,000 in AIDS treatment and $5.5 million in aid for regional schools to transport students.

The vetoes Romney made were more than twice as much money than in any of this three previous annual budgets.

"It is my opinion that the Legislature will override any veto that takes money away from cities and towns and this will include spending the surplus money," Humason said .

"K-12 education is a very important issue in Westfield," Humason said. "It has been hit so hard over the last five years during budget deficits."

The State Senate felt that towns were being shortchanged so they tweaked the Chapter 70 education spending formula for the Fiscal 2007 Year, Humason added.

The change in Chapter 70 allocations meant increased funds for communities such as Westfield and Southwick, but not for Agawam.

An area that Knapik would like to see overridden in the legislature session includes "The World is Our Classroom," a school-to-work program that has been operating in Holyoke for the past year, that was to receive $75,000. The increase would have allowed the program to expand into Westfield and Chicopee but was vetoed by the governor.

"I think it makes great sense tapping into education and teaching programs through companies, and businesses like the Holyoke paper industry," said Knapik in discussing his thoughts on the school-to-work program.

Knapik believes the governor's veto on this program will be overridden during legislative sessions over the next few weeks.

"Now the House will meet and have their votes and then the Senate will meet and vote," said Samantha Delair, press secretary to State Senator, Therese Murray- chairperson for the House and Ways Committee.

"If three-fourths of a vote are received by both Chambers then the governor's vetoes on those selected items will be overwritten," Delair said.