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From Issue Spot: Breaking it Down, Knowing the Facts, Simplifying our Message

Monday, December 17, 2012

Earlier this week, the Legislature kicked off the Fiscal Year 2014 budget season with the Consensus Revenue Hearing. This annual hearing came on the heels of last week’s announcement that there is a $540 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year – Fiscal Year 2013. The goal of the Consensus Revenue Hearing is to gather information from experts and economists who opine on the local impact of national economic trends. This information is then used to come up with an actual consensus revenue budget number. The consensus revenue budget number represents the level of spending agreed upon by the Governor, the Speaker and the Senate President, and is then used as the basis for the budgets proposed by the three branches.

It’s important that the consensus revenue process – and the ultimate consensus revenue number – is supported by outside experts. The public needs to know that our state budget is grounded in facts and reason and not politics.

At the BBA, we’ve already been talking about the FY14 budget for weeks now. As we do each year, we continue to meet with the leaders of the Judiciary to gather facts about the current state of our Massachusetts’ courts. What we are learning from these meeting we are using – and will continue to use – to persuade legislative leaders that the entire justice system is underfunded. All signals from the state on the budget front still point to things looking bleak.

Take a look at what our partners at the Equal Justice Coalition have been working on as they ramp up efforts for the FY14 budget. They’ve prepared persuasive arguments that demonstrate the need for an increase in the state appropriation for legal services. This week, the EJC released its latest fact sheet detailing the daunting financial burden placed on civil legal services organizations. The fact sheet also shows how state money invested in civil legal services brings in new federal revenue and ultimately saves money for Massachusetts.

Our lawyers get it. They understand the benefits associated with funding civil legal services programs and a lot of our lawmakers do too. But as lawyers and constituents we need to make sure our legislators really get it. Some legislators may not be as familiar with exactly how these civil legal service programs can help their constituents.

Check out the EJC’s clear and simple message contained in the FY14 Legislative Campaign Talking Points for the Private Bar also released this week. It’s straightforward, hits the highpoints and also provides additional facts to back up the argument that an increase in civil legal aid for FY 14 is smart and a win-win for everyone. The talking points provide lawyer-constituents with the necessary information to give a quick, concise pitch to their legislators for increased funding for legal aid. The goal is to make sure that legislators understand the benefits of funding legal aid for their constituents, support it, and most importantly include an increase in funding for civil legal aid as one of their budget priorities when the time comes to discuss their own budget priorities with leadership.

- Kathleen Joyce
Director of Government Relations
Boston Bar Association

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