$5 Million Budget Earmark In Mass Gets Attention

Massachusetts Democrats are facing accusations of using taxpayer-funded budget money for their own projects in their districts. The Boston Globe has reported that House Speaker Ron Mariano, Majority Leader Michael Moran, Budget Chief Aaron Michlewitz, and Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante have all accepted undisclosed earmarks for their chosen projects, without disclosing the amount to fellow lawmakers or the public.

These undisclosed earmarks are considered a “coveted” perk for high-level legislators and are traditionally allowed, much to the chagrin of former Democratic state representative Jonathan Hecht, who stated that the lack of transparency opens the door to “sweetheart deals” and questionable practices. The earmarks were reportedly taken from the state’s $58 billion taxpayer-funded budget, with most of the funds being released after three days of budget deliberations.

One of the Democratic representatives, Aaron Michlewitz, used a significant portion of the budget funds for projects in or near his North End neighborhood, including $400,000 for a local health care center, $50,000 for an unidentified group in Bay Village, and $65,000 for a nonprofit overseeing dog parks in the area.

Bay Village is a small, quaint neighborhood next to the Theatre District, known for its quiet streets, art deco buildings, and converted warehouses. Many tourists may not have heard of this neighborhood, although it is a popular spot for locals.

Michlewitz reportedly scored seven times more in earmark funding compared to the median lawmaker. He defended his actions by stating that he met “privately” with each lawmaker months before the budget was voted on and that the budget was significantly lower than in previous years. The Boston Globe found a total of $77 million in earmarks, including $95 million added by House lawmakers during deliberations.

House Speaker Ron Mariano also utilized budget funds for projects in his district, including $500,000 for the Adams Presidential Center, a nonprofit dedicated to the legacy of Presidents John Quincy and John Adams. The center is expected to cover at least 100,000 square feet in the city of Quincy, although it has faced legal controversy in the past. Mariano also secured an additional $30,000 for student support at Quincy College, which received a total of $1.5 million in earmarks from three undisclosed lawmakers.

Other lawmakers used earmarks for statewide projects, including Representative Kevin Honan, who obtained $2 million for the Massachusetts Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. Representative Carlos González of Springfield used $1 million for grant programs for prosecutors and police.

Meanwhile, Representative Patricia Haddad filed for funds for a local sewer project but later withdrew it, apparently stating it was a mistake. Haddad still received $200,000 for the project and another $100,000 for a non-profit her son is involved in.

The use of undisclosed earmarks has caused concern among some lawmakers and experts, who claim that it highlights an unhealthy power structure within the House. Tufts University executive director Evan Horowitz noted that the unequal distribution of power within the House makes it unsurprising that not all members are treated fairly when it comes to budget allocations. State Representative Russell Holmes, who sits on the budget committee, also expressed concern about the lack of transparency, stating that people may be scared to speak out against it due to the power dynamics within the House.

In total, Holmes received $825,000 in earmarks, according to the Boston Globe. The use of undisclosed earmarks has left many feeling unsettled, as it raises questions about fairness and transparency in the use of taxpayer money. While some lawmakers defend their actions as necessary for their districts, others believe that it highlights the need for reform within the House.

As the controversy continues to unfold, it remains to be seen how these earmarks will impact the public’s trust in their elected representatives and the budget allocation process in Massachusetts.


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