We're Still Working on It

We're still, as you read, I presume, and that's a lot of maybes, working on the state budget.

All eight years I've been in the House of Representatives we've worked all week, ending early Saturday morning. By early, I mean we work all night and end at 6 or 8 a.m.

So, maybe I'm working. Maybe I'm sleeping.

I assure you that I'm not rappelling. Tossing myself off the side of the belfry. The Cathedral's belfry, hopefully without bats, and certainly without Cele. That's what my fellow parishioners are doing today (Saturday). And I wouldn't do it even if I had nothing scheduled for today.

But, I digress. Which is better than rappelling. And a lot better than spending budget week trying to make everyone happy. Which, of course, we can't.

We started with a budget of $21,837,992,296 (let's call it almost $22-million), which is down two million from this year, but could increase by another million thanks to tax increases members voted for the previous week.

Everyone still is hoping to get their own line items increased. Amazing, not one request for decreases.

In just one day-I picked Tuesday just because I still had the full trash barrel-I got urgent requests for more funding from the Superior Court, the Hepatitis C Coalition, Gun Owners Action League, Mass Association of Day Care Agencies, Environmental Police Officers Association, the Mass Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Committee, and the Volunteer Fire Fighters Association.

Not to forget, the State Police Association of Massachusetts, the Littleton Public Schools (where is Littleton, you ask) and MAX (Mass Excellence). And the Mass Extended Care Federation, Mass Hospital Association, Home Health Care Association. And the Committee for Public Counsel Services, Homes for Families, Westfield's employees of the Department of Social Services, Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, the state's United Auto Workers CAP Council (to give them credit, they didn't want money, just an amendment to prevent privatization of Steamship Authority Services).

And the Bureau of Special Investigation Investigators Association, Committee to End Elder Homelessness, Clean Water Action, the Radio Reading Service, United Way, Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Environmental Law Enforcement, Holyoke Soldiers Home, AIDs Action Committee.

Department of Transitional Assistance, Department of Environmental Management, Bay Path College, Commission on the Status of Women, Holyoke Community College Library (on behalf of MCCLPHEI, which doesn't roll right off the tongue, but stands for Mass Conference of Chief Librarians of Public Higher Educational Institutions).

And ARC, which I don't remember what it stands for but I know what it does. Ditto CWE. And, MOAR.

You get the idea. And that was before the afternoon mail arrived. It doesn't count phone messages of e-mails.

Yes…I want input. I always want input. But I think I've maxed out on input.

Meanwhile, we're all trying to keep our own amendments straight (see last week's column if you really care) as well as all 1,565 amendments that members submitted. Remembering of course, that it's all imaginary.

Because, most amendments will be gaveled down, the Senate will change everything anyway, the conference committee named to work out House/Senate differences will dawdle until the last minute, and when House and Senate finally agree on a budget for 2003-2004, the Governor has line item veto power.

Then, the Governor will probably veto any tax increases. Which means we won't have the money we need to spend and we'll probably be back where we are today, about July 1st. Which is when the budget should go into effect. Remember last year? It was December before we finished it all.

And, there is still life in the State House, with other concerns continuing. Other bills, other calls, other problems to solve.

So, on Tuesday, I went to a Mental Health Caucus meeting to see a screening of "Imaging Robert," which, if you're at all interested in mental illness, you have to go see.

I also lunched on a cranberry cookie, apple cider and hot pepper cheese on a cracker for Tourism Day.

I even ate their "Central Massachusetts Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Heart of New England, from Wachusett Mountain to Old Sturbridge Village…and Everywhere in Between" chocolate bar. It had 320 calories.

I should have rappelled.

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