Remember how each Sesame Street episode is sponsored by a different letter or number? Well, if a letter were to sponsor yesterday’s budget debate, it would certainly be the letter T.
The clip above shares some great T words –tiara, tumble, terrific, tired…..
But, Day 1 of the Senate budget debates were all about: Transparency, Twitter, above all, Taxes!
Transparency: Senate President Stan Rosenberg has talked a ton about accessibility, accountability, communication, and shared leadership in order to build a more transparent and trust worthy government. This goal has been reflected in changes he has made to the rules that govern the Senate procedures; rules that dictate the debate process.
Twitter: the Senate President is a fan of social media as a means of engaging the people (that means all of us!), as stated here in an article about his adventures in the Reddit World.
“I’m all over civic engagement. This government belongs to the people, and they need as many avenues of access to the process as possible”
But Twitter is the social media platform tied to the debates. An overflow room has been set up with all sorts of Technology- flat screens that stream the debate, computers to check the mass.gov amendment tracker, and the best thing of all…a twitter wall! The TwitterWall is essentially a screen which highlights the tweets with the #hashtag #SenBudget. As the tweets flutter by, it also tracks the leaders – or those with the most (or best) tweets. HFF has maintained strong presence on the Leader Board, at the close of Day 1 is in 4th place, behind @MA_Senate, Senator Jamie Eldridge, Eric Shupin from CHAPA, and ahead of the Senate President.
We share this, not because we are a leading tweeter, but because we want to remind you, interested reader, to follow along with the debates by following us at @HFFma and the #SenBudget thread to stay up to date on the debate. And it is also a new and engaging twist in the fascinating world of politics.
Ok, so what happened in the debates?
Senate Chair of Ways and Means, Senator Karen Spilka, opened the session with an address which summarized the vision and values which guided her in developing the budget proposal. Then, the Minority Leader, Senator Bruce Tarr, also gave an address. He discussed the shared concern of the reliance on motels and his confidence in the Senate Ways and Means proposal to make progress in addressing the crisis. The debates went through the evening, there were a few recesses, and the day concluded just shy of 10pm. Some of the amendments were withheld – to discuss later or to work on refining the language behind the scenes – or withdrawn. Those aside, the Senate worked through the first two categories: Other and Local, which consisted of a total of 103 amendments. Much of the conversation, and the conversation most relative to homelessness and housing issues, was on the final T word, Taxes, and specifically, the Earned Income Tax Credit
The musical accompaniment to this section of the blog post is from the Beatles:
Five amendments were filed relative to the Earned Income Tax Credit. Two were withdrawn. The others included:
As you can see the Senate went with Amendment #6, which increases the EITC for working families, increases exemptions, and freezes the income tax roll back. The Senate also voted on a compromise between the Governor and the House relative to the Film Tax Credit. The Governor proposed eliminating it; the House to maintain it. The Senate is proposing a legislative study. Please check out the news articles for details and stay tuned for more information to see how this will all play out.
It is important to acknowledge, that as other states are balancing their budgets on the backs of families (see Arizona ) and applying double standards for government benefits, the MA State Senate spent well over an hour discussing not IF they should increase the EITC and get more money in the hands of the working poor, but the best way on HOW to do it. It was a long, but productive and interesting, dialogue about revenue, inequality and the will of voters. But mostly, it is was a discussion on how to do more for the families that are working hard across the Commonwealth, but are still unable to make ends meet.
And, that is pretty terrific.