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MASSACHUSETTS

Massachusetts

State Recovery Act Website: http://www.mass.gov/recovery

Massachusetts's state Recovery Act website scored 35 out of 100 possible points (ranking a tied 15th) on Good Jobs First's 51-state study of state stimulus websites entitled Show Us the Stimulus. The state earned a higher than average score by describing stimulus-funded projects, reporting their costs, naming contract awardees, and making contract text available.  Contractor information: here.

Massachusetts scored fewer points-25 out of 100 (ranking a tied 38th)-on its disclosure of information specifically about highway projects funded by the Recovery Act.  Descriptions and locations of highway and other transportation projects are available via a Google map on the DOT's main ARRA page. Contractor information: here.

For detailed scoring information, see the Massachusetts appendix of Show Us the Stimulus.

Coordination & Oversight

In February Gov. Deval Patrick named real estate developer Jeffery A. Simon to a new post overseeing ARRA infrastructure spending.  State Republicans criticized the choice, since Simon has been receiving a state pension since being removed from his job with the Massachusetts Government Land Bank in 1995.

Gov. Patrick has established ten different Infrastructure Task Forces: Education Facilities, Energy, Information Technology, Municipal, Permitting, Private Development, Procurement, State Facilities and Courts, Transportation, Workforce. Members of each task force are pulled from various government offices as well as non-profits, labor unions, academia and business. The legislature has created  a temporary 18-member Joint Committee on Federal Stimulus Oversight. This committee has already begun holding oversight hearings on stimulus spending. The state is also extending its current accounting system to track federal stimulus funds as they are distributed through state agencies. The Massachusetts Comptroller, Inspector General, and State Auditor's offices will also be involved in overseeing state agency use of stimulus funds.

According to a July GAO report, Massachusetts has begun planning its oversight efforts. Officials from the State Auditor’s Office have drafted an audit plan and are currently planning the risk assessments they will perform of programs receiving funding under the Recovery Act. The state Inspector General intends to focus on gaps in coverage. The oversight agencies have expressed concern regarding their 2010 budgets and potential staffing cuts due to the commonwealth’s fiscal situation. The extent of these cuts will not be known until the budget is passed for the fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2009. The commonwealth is in the process of putting into place a plan to obtain additional resources for these oversight agencies. Massachusetts has enhanced its accounting system to track Recovery Act funds that flow through the state accounting system. The Comptroller’s Office has included questions on compliance with Recovery Act provisions in its internal control questionnaire, and the Governor’s Office is continuing to assess whether agencies need new procedures for managing these funds.

Policy Debates

Massachusetts is debating whether to require project labor agreements for certain projects funded by the federal stimulus program. The non-union contractors group ABC has spoken out against such a plan, while the President of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council has emphasized the value of used well-trained of union workers.

In an opinion piece published March 27 by the Berkshire Eagle, Lee Finance Committee Chairman John Graziano criticized Gov. Patrick for announcing his intention to use stimulus funds for education to continue the state's Chapter 70 program instead of spreading funds around the state. According to the state Department of Secondary and Elementary Education, "the Chapter 70 program is the major program of state aid to public elementary and secondary schools. In addition to providing state aid to support school operations, it also establishes minimum spending requirements for each school district and minimum requirements for each municipality's share of school costs."  Chairman John Graziano states "more than half the districts in the commonwealth get no stimulus funds whatsoever."

The Massachusetts Communities Action Network led a coalition of 35 groups to ask Gov. Patrick to commit 15 percent of the jobs created by federal stimulus funds to low-income, chronically unemployed, and unemployed young workers. The Union of Minority Neighborhoods hosted a meeting where it was demanded that bridge and road projects be directed to their neighborhoods.

Due to the short timeframe of the ARRA, Gov. Patrick expressed concern that making projects handicapped accessible would create delays that could render some projects ineligible to receive stimulus funding. The Disability Policy Consortium (an organization of volunteer disability rights activists) threatened legal action if the state does not make stimulus funded projects accessible. Advocates pointed out that denying the rights of disabled persons in these projects would be an abuse of federal stimulus funds.

An agreement was reached between the Executive Office of Administration and Finance and the Architectural Access Board to ensure accessibility while expediting the approval process to meet federal stimulus deadlines.

A Federal Aviation Administration grant for the taxiways went straight to the Massachusetts Port Authority, which owns and controls Hanscom, bypassing the governor's office.  Critics of the airfield's operation are faulting Gov. Patrick for failing to do more to stop the use of $3 million in federal stimulus money to bankroll the project. They say the stimulus money is only benefiting the corporations that land private jets at the regional facility, and the wealthy who fly out of there for sport.

 

Last updated on: 14 October, 2009

Quick Facts

Population:
6,497,967

Median Household Income:
$62,365

Unemployment Rate:
9.1%

Poverty Rate:
9.9%

Estimated Recovery Act Funding:
$5.9 billion

Watchdog Groups

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center

Common Cause Massachusetts

MASSPIRG (Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group)

Resources

Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Federal Stimulus in Massachusetts, March 20, 2009; online here.

Facts at a Glance: The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act & Massachusetts, February 13, 2009; online here.

The Governor's Distribution of ARRA Education Funding, April 3, 2009; online here.

School Finance Reform and the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget (has section on stimulus funds), April 28, 2009; online here.

MASSPIRG, Massachusetts and the Stimulus: An Appraisal of Transportation Spending, June 2009; online here.

Action for Boston Community Development has published Securing the Safety Net, which contains recommendations (stemming from a conference the group held in April) on using stimulus funds to improve services for low-income families.  On Wednesday, July 1st, ABCD will host an inaugural forum, Implementing the ARRA.

Community Innovators Lab at MIT:  Massachusetts Stimulus Matrix; online here.

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