MNA Wins Important Protections in State Budget
The State House and Senate Conference Committee released its compromise budget plan on July 7th. On July 8th, both the House and Senate approved the budget and sent it to Governor Baker who has ten days to sign it, veto the entire budget or veto specific sections. Any veto requires a 2/3 majority in each chamber to override the veto.
The new budget addressed four specific priority issues for MNA impacting our members who work in Unit 7, caring for vulnerable patient populations:
- Tewksbury Hospital. The Governor’s FY2016 budget proposed cuts at Tewksbury Hospital- 12+ beds and 48 staff. We successfully fought this attempt via amendments to the House and Senate budgets and the final Conference Budget from the Legislature includes funding and language to preserve the current number of beds at Tewksbury Hospital.
- Emergency Services in Southeastern MA. The Governor announced that he planned to transfer Emergency Services provided through publicly operated ESPs in Southeaster MA from DMH to MassHealth- essentially privatizing the services. The Governor does not need permission from the Legislature to take this step, however we were successful in securing language requiring the Governor to follow the process outlined in the Massachusetts Taxpayer Protection Act (a.k.a. The Pacheco Law). We learned yesterday that The Governor is taking steps to follow this process to determine whether privatization is an avenue worth pursuing.
- Taunton State Hospital. We succeeded in maintain the current number of beds at TSH for FY2016, and though we did not get the increased beds in the Conference Committee budget that we had secured in the Senate budget we did get language allowing for an increase in beds if the allocation allows for it. The Conference Committee budget also includes language preventing any changes to the TSH campus- such as contracting with a vendor to occupy space on the campus- until a master plan is submitted. This master plan would require community input and must be consistent with maintaining publically provided mental health services on the campus.
- Mental Health Beds: The budget maintains all existing mental health beds, including the increase we secured in the FY2015 budget.
The conference budget tackled several policy differences between the House and Senate budgets, including the application of the Taxpayer Protection Act (a.k.a. the Pacheco Law). The House budget had included a provision suspending the Taxpayer Protection Act for five years at the MBTA. This was identified as a sticking point between the two branches as they negotiated a compromise budget. The MNA worked with a coalition of other unions to lobby against the inclusion of any language weakening the Taxpayer Protection Act. Ultimately, the conference budget included language suspending the Pacheco law for three years at the MBTA, paving the way for Governor Baker to privatize certain aspects of the MBTA without first undergoing the an examination of whether or not privatization maintains quality services and provides savings.