To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives:
Pursuant to Section 5 of Article 63 of the Amendments to the Constitution, I am today signing House Bill 3535, "An Act Making Appropriations for the Fiscal Year 2012 for the Maintenance of the Departments, Boards, Commissions, Institutions and Certain Activities of the Commonwealth, for Interest, Sinking Fund and Serial Bond Requirements and for Certain Permanent Improvements," and returning certain portions to you for reconsideration.
For nearly three years, we have worked together to manage through unprecedented fiscal challenges brought on by the global economic recession. Together, we have closed a cumulative budget gap of nearly $14 billion -- by cutting programs, eliminating thousands of state jobs, and implementing cost-saving reforms that are changing the way government does business. While our economy is steadily strengthening, the recovery is not yet robust enough to offset the loss of $1.5 billion in federal stimulus funding in the coming year, which requires us to pursue many of these measures through another painful fiscal year.
The $30.6 billion Fiscal Year 2012 budget I am signing today targets investments in my four key priorities for this term: closing the education achievement gap, controlling health care costs, addressing youth violence and creating jobs. This budget is balanced and fiscally responsible, and it eliminates the structural deficit left by my predecessors.
These actions and continued proactive budget management have allowed the Commonwealth to maintain its stable bond rating. Earlier this year, citing our proactive budget management as a leading factor, Standard and Poor's awarded Massachusetts a positive outlook, one of only three states to have such a rating.
I am pleased to sign several important reforms in this budget including changes to the indigent defense system that will save taxpayer dollars; significant steps toward a housing first system by restricting emergency shelters to families that truly need it, while increasing funding for housing to prevent homelessness; and reforms that will increase transparency among quasi public agencies.
In this budget, we will establish an Office of Commonwealth Performance, Accountability and Transparency (CPAT) that will promote a more effective and efficient government; along with many other changes that will strengthen audits and improve transparency throughout state government.
In addition, I look forward to signing provisions for municipal health care reform that will save millions for cities and towns, while preserving a meaningful role for organized labor, pending your enactment of a few refinements I am sending back today for your consideration.
This budget includes several cost-saving initiatives that will help control health care costs, such as incentives for state employees to move to less-costly health plans and authorization to re-procure health care services for Commonwealth Care, MassHealth and the Department of Corrections. Nevertheless, we must continue our urgent work together to enact and implement systemic reforms to the way we pay for and deliver health care services to make health care costs affordable over the long term.
I am approving a provision to use SAVE verification for MassHealth programs, and will propose funding the $2.8 million necessary to run this system. I am also approving the appropriation for the Probation Department in the expectation that a reform proposal will advance to my desk promptly.
I am proud to sign this budget, and I thank you for your partnership to deliver on fiscally-responsible investments in priority areas like education, and to implement reforms that will help ensure we are working as efficiently and effectively as possible for the people of the Commonwealth. The budget I am signing today reflects many of our shared priorities, and therefore includes a limited number of vetoes. That said, there are some items I am returning for your consideration.
I am disapproving those sections of House 3535 itemized in Attachment B of this message for the reasons set forth in that Attachment; and
Pursuant to Article LVI, as amended by Article XC, Section 3 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, I am returning sections 27, 51, 52, 58, 185, 199, 200, 201, 202 and 203 with recommendations for amendment. My reasons for doing so and the recommended amendments are set forth in separate letters dated today which are included with this message as Attachments C, D, E, and F.
I approve the remainder of this Act.