December 12, 2021 Letter

The Council 94 Agreement (Part 2)

In my December 5 letter, I reviewed the “vaccine incentive” $3,000 payment in the Council 94 collective bargaining agreement. I wrote that the “vaccine incentive” did not qualify as an incentive under federal standards, as the first $1,500 payment went only to State employees who already were vaccinated (or were exempt), while the second $1,500 payment went to everyone who received the first payment as well as those who were newly vaccinated between now and July. As reported in the Providence Journal, the Governor ultimately agreed, calling the contract’s incentive a “misstep” and, according to reports, has decided to change it from an “incentive” to a retention bonus that will be paid to all employees regardless of vaccination status. Though not reported in the article, it also appears the Governor will not be using federal funds to pay for this (or any other) part of the collective bargaining agreement, and in this way addressed the error I identified in last week’s letter. Unfortunately, the Governor appears to have replaced last week’s error with an equally problematic one this week. More specifically, the Governor replaced a $9.6 million expense that would have encouraged a relatively small number of State workers to get vaccinated with a $9.6 million (or perhaps higher) expense that will not generate any public health benefit at all. In contrast, the Governor Baker of Massachusetts imposed a mandate requiring state workers to receive the vaccine, a move that did not cost the Bay State any taxpayer funds whatsoever. Our Governor’s “correction” of his prior “misstep” does nothing to increase the vaccination of State employees, and from that perspective appears to be a step backward, as well as serious waste of (now State taxpayer) funds.


Legislative Grants

In recent years, Senate leadership has allocated to District 3 an annual budget of $29,000 in legislative grants. In my November 24 letter, I invited local organizations to apply for grants for the July 1, 2022 — June 30, 2023 fiscal year. Due to the time constraints set by Senate leadership, the process was severely compressed, and I was not able to develop the type of formal process I prefer to have going forward. I received 30 proposals totaling more than $73,000 from which I selected the following:


As you can see, I placed a priority on local neighborhood associations and parent-teacher organizations. This list will now go to Senate leadership for review. I also informed each recipient that these grants were for one year only, and that next year’s list may look quite different. To help me make these decisions next year (for the July 1, 2023-June 30, 2024 fiscal year, consistent with Senate practice of submitting these proposals ten months in advance), I plan to recruit an advisory committee consisting of a diverse cross-section of our neighborhood.


The Supplemental Federal Funds Budget

I have been informed that the Senate Finance Committee will meet on Thursday, December 16 to review a proposed supplemental budget to appropriate approximately $119 million of the federal funds awarded to the State under the State Fiscal Recovery Fund of the American Rescue Plan Act and the prior CARES Act. If approved by the Senate and House Finance Committees, this supplemental budget will be voted on in early January when the General Assembly formally begins its 2022 session. I have not yet received a detailed description of the budget, but it will be based on the presentations made before the Finance Committee over the past two months. I will report more on this vote in next week’s letter.