Where is the budget?
The Administration, under the Governor, begins the budget creation process. Each agency and department submits a budget to its executive office. For example, the Department of Developmental Services, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, and Massachusetts Commission for the Blind identify their priorities and submit their budgets for the next fiscal year to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS). Then all the Executive Offices, e.g., Health and Human Services, Consumer Affairs, Elder Affairs, submit their budgets to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, which prepares the Administration’s (Governor’s) version of the total state budget. Sometime during this period the Administration holds open budget hearings, and takes public testimonies.
What your agency should be doing
Meet with the Commissioners of your respective agencies to request that your priority issues become the priorities of the respective Commissioners and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. (To find contact information for agencies and commissions, visit mass.gov) Prepare position papers and provide resources to support your issues. Begin to meet with those legislators who have been consistently supportive of your issues to share with them the priority issues of your agency. Also, attend budget hearings, and if possible arrange to testify. (For tips on meeting with legislators and providing testimony, browse our library of legislative advocacy tools.)
What you should be doing
This is a good time for families to send letters to the Commissioners, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and the Governor’s office. Describe the needs of your family. For example, if you need after-school care to keep your family member home, tell them this. If you need a ramp, a tutor, or a full residential program, explain that too. Personal letters are a very effective weapon in the advocacy arsenal.
In the Legislature — Families and Local Chapters of The Arc take on the critical role of laying the grassroots constituency groundwork with Senators and Representatives. Get to know your legislators! Meet with them, call them, write them. (Don’t know who your legislators are? You can use our online Arc Action Center to find out.) Tell them what your needs are, and that you are going to need their help when the budget comes before the Legislature. Also, visit those legislators you don’t know very well. It is always important to cultivate new legislative supporters. It is only human nature that legislators are most responsive to people they know. If possible, get to know them before you ask for millions of budget dollars.