Massachusetts Senators to Debate ARPA Coronavirus Relief Spending Bill

State senators are set to debate a massive coronavirus relief spending bill intended to alleviate suffering caused by the pandemic, but Beacon Hill watchdogs have called on lawmakers for tasking the bill with with hundreds of “selfish” amendments.

“They’re using that money for pet projects, so when they get re-elected around this time next year, they can say ‘look what I have for our town’ instead of spending some relief money. pandemic to pandemic-related costs, ”said Paul Diego Craney, spokesperson for the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance.

The Senate last week revealed a spending bill that proposes to use more than $ 3.66 billion of available American Rescue Plan Act funds and excess tax revenues to invest in housing, development of workforce, schools and health systems to help power communities hardest hit by COVID. -19 pandemic. The debate opens in a formal session on Wednesday.

But Senate lawmakers – like their cohorts in the House – loaded the relief bill with 722 amendments totaling more than $ 5.5 billion in additional spending.

While the majority of the amendments – which run the gamut of investments in schools, public safety, economic development, local projects and more – are likely to be spiked, watchdogs say it indicates attitudes at Beacon Hill.

“The legislature should seek to fix what is broken and has not yet been paid for,” said Greg Sullivan, former state inspector general and current research director for the Pioneer Institute. “The legislature should focus on taking charge of our current underfunded projects and not succumb to selfish amendments.”

The changes include a $ 2 million request by Senator Brendan Crighton for a senior center in Lynn, $ 200,000 for the Community Music School of Springfield by Senator Eric Lesser and $ 400,000 to replace a Ware Bridge started by Senator Anne Gobi.

An amendment proposed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr that would increase the contribution to the state’s indebted unemployment insurance trust fund from $ 500 million to $ 1 billion is one of the few exceptions, agreed the watch dogs.

“There’s no better way to spend this money,” Craney said. “This is not the result of what these companies did or did not do, it is the result of orders that have restricted or shut them down completely and are now being asked to pay off a $ 7 billion debt. over 20 years. “

The House passed its $ 3.82 billion version of excess spending / ARPA last Friday night, with the bill ultimately rising by about $ 170 million after lawmakers considered more than 1,000 amendments.

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