BOSTON >> House Speaker Robert DeLeo plans to hear from House budget writers, but said Monday he's not sure whether Gov. Charlie Baker needed to slash $256 million from the $39.15 billion fiscal 2017 budget lawmakers delivered to him.
"I'm not so sure about that. That's going to be one of the issues that I have to talk to Ways and Means about," DeLeo said.Speaker questions Baker's budget cuts
The Legislature's $39.15 billion spending bill was smaller than the $39.5 billion budget bills that passed both chambers in April and May, but Baker said Friday that his vetoes were necessary to account for sagging revenues as well as other underfunded accounts in the budget.
Baker on Friday trimmed the budget to $38.72 billion, when he announced his spending vetoes.
On his way into his office Monday, DeLeo told the News Service, "Hopefully later on today Ways and Means is going to provide me with a listing of all amendments and the vetoes and some of their recommendations. So hopefully by later on today or tomorrow, hopefully I'll have a better idea."
Sen. Vinny deMacedo, the ranking Republican on the Senate Ways and Means Committee and one of the conference committee members who worked out differences between the House and Senate budgets, said cuts to the budget were driven by a need to make ends meet in a tight economy.
"Obviously none of us likes to see anything vetoed. We've all worked hard, and we have issues in our communities," deMacedo told the News Service. "We also know the challenges because by the same token, for those of us in the conference committee, you have to make cuts you don't like making, and I know for the administration they don't like making these cuts as well. Obviously we never like to see it, but it's not an enviable position to try to deal with."
Activists on Monday were pressing for overrides of $17.85 million in vetoed spending in early education accounts, including a $7.5 million cut to a rate reserve that Early Education for All says would "further delay addressing the ongoing workforce crisis in Massachusetts."
DeMacedo said he hoped Baker's vetoes would be sufficient to prevent midyear spending cuts, which he referred to as "the worst thing you can do to any agency."
"Even though the number's smaller, it's best to understand what the reality is now to have a better sense," he said. "I believe that's what the governor was trying to accomplish."
Baker is scheduled to meet privately with legislative leaders on Monday afternoon.
DeLeo said of more immediate concern are the amendments Baker sent back to the Legislature.
"With amendments you have to send them back or accept them. And if you send them back then he has another 10 days to veto them," DeLeo told the News Service on Monday.
With formal legislative sessions scheduled to end on July 31, lawmakers have a dwindling calendar in which to take roll calls, override vetoes and pass other major bills.
Baker proposed amendments to 23 areas of the budget.
DeLeo said the only amendment he has an opinion about is the governor's proposed change to explicitly prevent immigrants who are in the country illegally from obtaining a Massachusetts license - a change the speaker supports.
A former chairman of House Ways and Means before he became speaker in 2009, DeLeo plans to hear from the committee chaired by Rep. Brian Dempsey, a Haverhill Democrat.
On Friday, Baker signed a $38.92 billion budget. In recent months state officials have recalibrated downward their revenue expectations following disappointing returns in financial markets.