Update: A quick search on Twitter unearthed the document I’m looking for. You can grab a copy of Charlie Baker’s FY17 9C cuts by line item and earmark for yourself!
Compare: Notice how much information they left out from the official public line item listing. No wonder they didn’t want the detailed one circulated externally. There are enough cuts to different services in here to effect everyone in the Commonwealth.
Correction: The constituent aide and I were looking at 9C cuts to last year’s budget. I’ve updated link to the public line item accounting of FY17 budget cuts above. The public numbers and secret, private numbers still don’t match. The official and secret budget cuts are off by 64 million dollars!
Normally the Massachusetts state legislature handles the state budget and state budget cuts. Earlier this month, Governor Charlie Baker made unilateral so-called 9C budget cuts to slash funding from state services without going through the legislature. I called Baker’s office to find out more about his budget cuts.
This morning a constituent aide from Governor Baker’s office called back to tell me the details of the Charlie Baker’s budget cuts are NOT for external circulation. It wasn’t his decision though. His contact in Legislative Affairs made the call. He did ask if I had any specific questions. So I asked:
Why are the details of Charlie Baker’s reductions in public money to public services not public? Why can’t that document be circulated to the public?
He didn’t know. I guess the internal affairs of the Governor’s office are as secretive to their constituent aides as they are to Massachusetts constituents. I explained how this all started:
The reason I called initially is because I read an article explaining that a emergency food program in Cambridge called the Cambridge Weekend Backpack program lost its funding due to the 9C budget cuts. It tried to verify the cuts, but could not from the public line item listing.
At this point, the aide interrupted, “They are verified.” So I asked:
Can you tell me which line item the Cambridge Weekend Backpack program falls under? I could not guess based on the very general category names of the publicly posted account.
Happy to help, the aide agreed to look up the details for me in the document that he refused to send me. And he found it! A cut for $110,000, just like the original reporting said. It was bundled under a reduction to Department of Agricultural Resources Administration.
But wait a second! The budget cut to the Department of Agriculture Resources Administration that the governor’s office posted to the public was only $9,250. How could the true, secret value be over $100,000 more? So I asked the aide:
Why is the reported reduction in that line item only $9,250? You just told me that a single cut to that department is $110,000. Why are the numbers different?
He added that question to the list.
(Update: The Boston Globe reports that the line item reduction for emergency food assistance programs 2511-0105 was $650,000. Which is it? Is any of these numbers correct, Governor Baker?)
And he asked me if I had any more questions. The aide reminded me that their office is busy and cannot spend a lot of time with every constituent. So I made him an offer.
I understand that you’re very busy. And I really appreciate your calling me back and taking this time with me. If it would be easier for you, I can come to the office to pick up a print out of the 9C budget cuts and go over it myself. That way you can attend to other things.
The aide sympathized with me, but reminded me that the details of the budget cuts cannot be released to the public. For some reason they didn’t want me to know how the budget cuts would effect the entire state, so I asked specifically:
Can you send me the details of all of the services that were effected in Cambridge? I’d like to know so that I can choose which ones to donate to.
He said he would try to find out:
- Why are the details of Charlie Baker’s 9C budget unavailable to the general public?
- Why is there a discrepancy between the publicly reported budget cuts and the the internal, secret cuts?
- Which services in Cambridge are effected by the cuts and by how much?
In the meantime, he referred me to the Office of Administrative and Financial Affairs since they published the public line item account of the budget cuts. I called them and left a message.
Do you think it’s bizarre that Charlie Baker won’t release the details about how he uses public money on public services to the public, too? Call his office at (617) 725-4005. Let me know what they say!