Senate Ways and Means releases budget proposal

Issue June 2012 By Lee Ann Constantine

On May 16, the Senate Ways and Means Committee released its $32.2 billion fiscal year 2013 budget proposal. Included in the proposal was $561.8 million in funding for the Massachusetts Trial Court, $1.8 million more than the budget proposed by the House. The Senate budget also included full transferability for the newly appointed court administrator.

Additionally, the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation was funded at $11 million, $3.5 million below MLAC's requested amount necessary to restore critical legal services for low-income citizens. Sen. Cynthia Stone Creem (D-Newton), senate chair of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, filed an amendment to add $3.5 million to MLAC's budget.

The Committee for Public Counsel Services account was filed at $162.4 million by the Senate, compared to $162.2 by the House. Both branches have refrained from further expanding the ratio of staff counsel to assigned private counsel.

At the time of print, the Senate was poised to begin debate on the budget proposal. Following the Senate debate, each branch will appoint three members to a joint conference committee to reconcile the two budgets. The conference committee will produce one final conference budget to be sent to both branches for an up-or-down vote without further debate. The governor may approve the budget in part by making a number of vetoes to the document. Fiscal 2013 begins on July 1, 2012.

Look for further status updates on the state budget, and any applicable calls to action, in the July issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Journal.