The Baker Administration’s Crowning Achievement

The Gateway Cities Journal

The Baker Administration’s Crowning Achievement

Leaders on Beacon Hill continue to look for solutions to the stalled economic development package. Embedding the bill’s provision in a supplemental budget, which Governor Baker would take the lead in drafting, is one scenario floating around the State House.

This approach has one major downside: supplemental budgets cannot contain bond authorizations. If this is the way forward, many vital funding streams will be lost, including a much-needed recapitalization of MassWorks.

But a supplemental budget could quickly tend to the HDIP increase and the ARPA spending, which are absolutely critical. HDIP projects are suffering from a drought that has gone on for far longer than what our lawns have dealt with this summer. If we neglect these housing developments any longer, they will surely wither up and die. There is also much reason to be concerned about further delay on ARPA. Spending these dollars has proven to be a slow and laborious process. Communities need the longest runway possible to ensure that this money is spent well.

If Governor Baker takes the lead crafting a slimmed down package, he could help position cities to make transformative ARPA investments by including targeted changes to state procurement law.

When Congress crafted ARPA, the intent was to provide not just immediate recovery resources, but funding to help urban communities combat the social and economic challenges that made the pandemic especially harmful to their residents.

To ensure that their local ARPA dollars get to the root of these structural public health issues, several Gateway Cities are partnering with the nonprofit Health Resources in Action (HRiA). While these collaborative efforts have surfaced many challenges communities must overcome to spend ARPA funds in a manner that brings about systemic change, highly restrictive state procurement laws top the list.

Governor Baker understands this problem. His administration has worked hard to address it through legislation and by strengthening the state’s Supplier Diversity Office. This supplemental budget would likely be his last major imprint on state policy. For an administration that has a lot to be proud of when it comes to both municipal partnership and efforts to build a more equitable commonwealth, progress on longstanding procurement problems would be a crowning achievement.

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