“The rest is a ‘kitchen sink’ of wasteful progressive demands, payoffs for labor unions and radical environmentalists, and job-killing regulations,” according to some conservative gasbag.
Mayor Kim Janey stepped into office just in time to put together the proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget for the city. Boston’s fiscal year begins July 1, leaving this budget just a few months before it will likely go into effect.
Janey’s plan, which still must be deliberated over and then finally approved by the City Council by June, calls for a $3.75 billion operating budget. The proposal reflects a $142 million increase, of which $66 million will be new funding for the school system. The budget includes small increases for most city departments, though there are exceptions, such as a $21 million cut to the police department’s overtime budget.
The budget is Janey’s first big move since ascending to the mayor’s office and ostensibly reflects her priorities for the year. It includes about $5 million to support the creation of new city departments, including the Office of Equity, Office of Diversity, Office of Resilience & Racial Equity, Office of Language & Communication Access and the Office of Police Accountability & Transparency.
Existing departments, including Elections, Office of Arts & Culture, Office of Economic Development, Environment Department, Office of Health & Human Services, Public Health Commission, Neighborhood Development, Department of Innovation and Technology, Youth Engagement, Public Works and the Fire Department, all received at least $1 million in additional funding.
On the other hand, the operating budget includes cuts to Neighborhood Services, and to the health insurance of city employees. Janey also announced a $3.2 billion capital budget, which is dedicated to the repair and maintenance of existing city properties and roads. The budget also covers new projects, but the project highlights page is almost the same as Walsh’s project highlights from FY21 with the deadlines shifted further out, which could just be the result of COVID construction delays.
Municipal leaders may not have major concerns for its infrastructure, but the same cannot be said for the state. Massachusetts, as well as pretty much every other state in the country, received a poor grade from the White House ahead of the release of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.
Although the White House’s report on Massachusetts lacked a specific grade, the information was based on a previous report from the American Society of Civil Engineers, released in March, that gave the Bay State a C-minus.
The state has 5,233 bridges, 472 of which are in poor condition. The state also has 1,194 miles of highway rated in poor condition, accounting for a fourth of the state’s total. The report estimates that each driver ends up paying an average of $620 in car repairs annually from having to drive on crappy roads.
In terms of public transit, about 23% of trains, buses, and other forms of transit have deteriorated past their usefulness.
The report estimates that there are about $244 million worth of deferred park maintenance in the state, while Mass also needs $12.2 billion in improvements for its drinking water system over the next 20 years, and $8.4 billion in improvements to deal with wastewater.
The state also needs major investments into climate resiliency, which basically entails improving roads and buildings to better endure historic storm surges or flooding. Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters on March 31 that he hoped Biden’s plan incorporates the need for climate resiliency.
“The simple truth of the matter is we have far more storms than we used to have and the storms we have are far more severe than they used to be,” the governor said during a videotaped press conference. “I certainly hope that as the federal government moves forward in this conversation about infrastructure and about climate that they incorporate a pretty significant investment and resiliency is part of that.”
In case you missed the latest outcry from conservative deficit hawks over Biden, the president released his $2 trillion infrastructure improvement plan.
The plan, which must still be negotiated through Congress, would modernize over 20,000 miles of roadways and repair thousands of bridges across the country, while also covering replacement costs for thousands of decrepit trains and buses.
It would also improve drinking water, fix up the electric grid, and modernize millions of homes, schools, veteran hospitals and other buildings. And the proposal is called the American Jobs Plan, so naturally, there is also a large part of it dedicated to job creation.
While many states and municipalities are salivating over the influx of federal cash, conservatives have been knocking the plan for including more than what they argue is infrastructure. Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy claimed that the infrastructure plan only included about 6% of spending on road and bridge repairs, which he argued are the only things that count as “infrastructure.”
“The rest is a ‘kitchen sink’ of wasteful progressive demands, payoffs for labor unions and radical environmentalists, and job-killing regulations that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently likened to the Green New Deal,” McCarthy said in a released statement.
The American Society of Civil Engineers has a different definition of infrastructure. Its website lists “roads, parks, schools, drinking water reservoirs, and more—that serve as the backbone of our economy and quality of life.”
Who could imagine wanting to spend money on those sorts of things?
Zack is a veteran reporter. He writes for DigBoston and VICE, and formerly reported for the Boston Courant and Bulletin Newspapers.