Five Pieces of Pork In the Massachusetts Fiscal Year 2021 Budget

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Massachusetts state legislators worked out a budget for the state government for the current fiscal year recently.

With $45.9 billion in the budget and various non-monetary provisions, the budget is far from perfect. On the bright side, state Representative Nika Elugardo (D-Jamaica Plain) successfully sponsored a provision that removes the requirement that hair braiders get costly licenses from the state, so she deserves immense credit for getting some occupational licensing reform done in Massachusetts.

However, the budget as a whole is replete with waste and even unnecessary regulation in some cases. Here is a look at five of the worst aspects of it.


1.  Transgender Emergency Fund

The budget amendment sponsored by state Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro) had bipartisan support in the Senate for increased funding for something called the Transgender Emergency Fund. Amendment 428, also supported by state Senator Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) and state Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth), increased funding for the program from $100,000 to $150,000.

It’s an organization that says it provides“Critical assistance for low-income and homeless transgender people living in Massachusetts.” One of those services:  the program will pay to replace someone’s state identification if they want to change the gender on it. Great use of taxpayer money.

The organization does provide things like prescription co-pays, personal supplies, and winter clothing, and other services, but why are we favoring one group over another? Why is our government giving special treatment to people based on gender identity?


2.  Drain Cleaner License

You know that slew of deaths from drain cleaning accidents that we’ve never had in this state? Well, thankfully, now the government is going to step in and try to prevent the non-existent problem from happening — and create a barrier to entry for those who want to work.

For some reason, state Representative Tackey Chan (D-Quincy) put an put Amendment 514 in the House Budget. It says: “No drain cleaner shall engage in the practice of drain cleaning without completing the necessary education requirements and is certified by the board. A drain cleaner must demonstrate that he or she has completed at least 100 hours of drain cleaning work under the supervision of an existing drain cleaning business incorporated with the state prior to January 1, 2021 or a licensed plumber.”

This is the kind of legislation that benefits existing companies and tenured workers because they can prevent more competition from entering the market. If someone wants a third-party to verify the competence of drain cleaners, someone could start up a private certification. Plus we live in an era where online reviews are common.


3.  Cape Verdean Association of New Bedford

Apparently now we’re paying to promote an ethnic group.

House budget Amendment 627 provides that “not less than $25,000 shall be expended for cultural educational programming and community services at the Cape Verdean Association of New Bedford.” This comes to us courtesy of state Representative Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford).

There is little information about the organization available online, but its mission statement on Facebook says that it strives to “preserve and promote Cape Verdean culture.”

The Web site Volunteer South Coast says that the organization wants “To develop and implement a Cape Verdean Cultural Center and provide Cape Verde Consular services, resource information, referrals/assistance, educational programs, cultural entertainment programs and much more.”

All to the good. Cape Verdeans have a rich history in Massachusetts, particularly in New Bedford.

But so do many other ethnic groups. Should we subsidize them, too?

People have the right to preserve and protect their culture, but when it’s in the United States and with our tax dollars, that’s another question. The answer is:  probably not.

Generally, our government should not promote certain groups of citizens over others.


3.  Italian Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts

We Americans are also paying to promote Italian culture now too.

The organization in question wants to preserve Italian culture, traditions, heritage, and the Italian language. It sponsors “social, culinary and educational events to foster appreciation and respect in the community for the rich contributions that Italians have made locally and throughout the world.”

Here is the list of activities the organization puts on:

  • Italian Movie Nights
  • Italian Cultural Lecture Series
  • Delicious Italian Dinner Events
  • Italian Cooking Classes
  • Adult Italian Language Classes
  • Bus Trips
  • Raffles
  • Game Nights
  • A Celebration of our Italian Heritage with a Flag-Raising Ceremony
  • And much more

So this group received $50,000 in taxpayer dollars thanks to Amendment 682 filed by state Representative Carlos Gonzalez (D-Springfield).

Again, this is an example of the state governor promoting one group over another. At best it’s favoritism. At worst, it could fracture social cohesion.

Italians have a proud tradition and vibrant culture in this country. They can tend to it themselves.


4.  5G Study

Is 5G Internet safe?

Our Massachusetts government will get right on it to try to figure out the answer.

That’s because state Representative Patrick Kearney (D-Scituate) put Amendment 767 into the House budget that “Creates a commission to study the health and wellness impacts of 5G broadband networks.”

We should want to know whether or not 5G is safe, but how many other studies have taken place and will take place before 5G goes up throughout the country? Is this one really going to make any difference whatsoever?


5.  The Company Theatre

State Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth) had to make sure we gave the Company Theatre more of our tax dollars. The theater was set to receive $100,000, but thanks to O’Connor’s Amendment 426, it now will receive $250,000 — an increase of $150,000.

The Company Theatre’s Web site says that it, offers “Entertaining with accessible, high-quality theatre at affordable prices. Educating students of diverse cultural and financial backgrounds in all aspects of the performing and visual arts through an apprenticeship program and the Academy of the Company Theatre. And Enriching the cultural scene by giving people of all social and ethnic origins the opportunity to experience and participate in new and established theatrical works.”

So we’re using taxpayer dollars so that adults can put on plays.

If the state is doling out massive sums of money, it’s understandable that O’Connor would want to use some of it to benefit his district. However, plays are a niche interest. Why not help out a food bank, promote a veterans’ organization, or provide funding to crisis pregnancy centers? Heck, even giving the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield money probably would’ve been a better investment.

If rich liberals from Duxbury and Hingham want to help out the local company theater, let them open up their wallets instead.