Important deadlines are just days away on Beacon Hill — and the Legislature needs to get its act in gear to meet them.
One is the deadline for delivering a new budget. Fiscal year 2018 starts on July 1, which means the new budget is due on Friday. In the face of revenue growth running at only about 1.2 percent so far this year, a budget conference committee is struggling to reduce spending plans originally based on projected growth of 3.9 percent.
There’s now considerable talk that conferees won’t complete that task in time; indeed, both chambers have passed a one-month budget for July to prepare for that eventuality. That wouldn’t be a catastrophe — “one-12ths,” as they are known, have certainly been pressed into service before — but neither is the budgetary deadline the only one that looms.
A second is the self-declared deadline for getting an agreement on the Legislature’s overhaul of the marijuana-legalization ballot law. The legislative rewrite effort started late and moved slowly, with the two chambers only passing their competing plans last week. On Monday, the conference committee began meeting behind closed doors to hammer out a compromise.
Will it be done by week’s end? Neither House Speaker Robert DeLeo nor Senate President Stanley Rosenberg were offering any ironclad assurances.
“That is the goal,” noted the speaker.
If the Legislature had completed lots of other work so far this year, some delay on these two issues might not matter much. But legislatively, this has been anything but a productive spring. Tellingly, one of the few pieces of legislation that has moved smartly along was the big raise for the speaker and Senate president and their legion of leadership lieutenants.
Queried about what it would say if the Legislature can’t bring its deadline work to fruition in a timely way, both DeLeo and Rosenberg sidestepped.
“Ask that question again next week, because Friday is the end of the month, and that’s our goal, to get those done,” replied Rosenberg.
“I think that if you are talking about what we have accomplished . . . I think you ought to wait not only for the week, but I think you ought to take a look at the legislative session ahead, and then we’ll take a look in terms of what we have done in terms of . . . our full legislative session,” responded DeLeo.
It’s certainly possible that this will wind up being a productive year. Still, in the recent past — specifically, 2015 — a languid pace, particularly in the DeLeo’s top-down, tightly controlled House, found many important bills piled up at session’s end, with a lot left hanging and undone.
Legislative leaders should fight the tendency to postpone action to the last moment, whether those deadlines come at mid-year or the end of the session. A properly paced, well-orchestrated, productive legislative schedule is the kind of thing the public has every right to expect of two leaders pulling down the handsome pay that DeLeo and Rosenberg now earn.