BOSTON — Lawmakers heard pitches Tuesday for a larger slice of next year’s $40.9 billion state budget from leaders who say the Baker administration is underfunding vital programs.
Gov. Charlie Baker last week filed a preliminary budget for the fiscal year that begins in July, increasing money to cities and towns, along with funding for public schools and colleges, without raising taxes or fees or tapping the state’s reserve funds.
But the state’s constitutional officers, all Democrats whose budgets are approved as part of the annual spending package, say they need more.
Attorney General Maura Healey, the state’s top law enforcement official, asked lawmakers to boost funding to fight health care fraud, predatory student loan companies, opioid abuse and other priorities. She’s seeking $50 million for her office — about $2 million more than Baker’s proposal.
“The demands on our office continue to increase,” Healey told a meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Ways & Means Committee on Tuesday. “We must have sufficient funding to continue our work.”
Secretary of State Bill Galvin, the state’s top election official, told the panel the Baker budget undercuts funding for the upcoming state primaries and general election.
Galvin said he asked for about $1.75 million to pay for constitutionally mandated election manuals, which are mailed to voters with details about the races, ballot questions and other information. He received $388,000 in the governor’s proposal.
“I couldn’t even meet the printing costs with that, not to mention the mailing costs,” he said. “So that’s a clear deficit.”
Galvin also wants more money to prepare for the 2020 U.S. Census, which his office will administer. He asked for $1 million but Baker’s budget only recommends about $500,000.
The funding is critical, Galvin told lawmakers, because of efforts by President Donald Trump to “sabotage” the decennial count by including questions such as “are you a citizen?”
He suggested those questions are meant to prevent new immigrants from being counted.
“It’s pretty obvious to me that the Trump administration intends to politicize this process,” he said. “They’re clearly deterring people who might not be citizens from being counted.”
An inaccurate count, he said, could mean less federal money for the state and possibly affect its seats in Congress.
State Auditor Suzanne Bump asked for more money to continue her office’s watchdog responsibilities, as well as funding for programs found deficient by recent reports, such as tracking registered sex offenders.
Treasurer Deb Goldberg asked lawmakers for more funding for the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission and the lottery. Funding to promote the lottery, she said, has fallen from $8 million in fiscal 2016 to $4.5 million last year.
“Massachusetts has the lowest advertising budget of any of the top 10 lotteries in the nation,” she said. “We need to adequately promote the lottery.”
The committee will hold hearings in the coming months ahead of the House version of the spending package.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.