Mass. governor won’t restore $1.68M to FDs despite budget shortfall
Gov. Maura Healey had cut earmarks to fire departments in 33 cities, towns including Boston
By Lance Reynolds
BOSTON — The nearly $2 million Gov. Maura Healey cut in local earmarks for roughly three dozen fire departments across Massachusetts last month won’t be restored, but her administration says it still supports firefighters.
Healey wiped out $1.68 million for local fire departments as part of the $375 million cut she made to the state budget in early January, with the Bay State facing an expected $1 billion shortfall this fiscal year.
Healey’s administration made the massive reduction to the budget in response to six months of missed revenue marks.
The reduction in local earmarks were designed to have the smallest impact possible on fire departments, the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security told the Herald this week. Despite the shortfall, this year’s general and capitol budgets still provide “important support to protect firefighters and the communities they serve,” it said.
In a letter to local fire union heads last month, Richard MacKinnon Jr ., president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, highlighted the “majority of these cuts are reducing local ‘earmarks’ by 50%.”
“Her administration is actually very open and always available to talk with us,” MacKinnon told the Herald this week. “There hasn’t been any talks about restoring that money at this point based on the revenues I think that the state is seeing. It will probably be up to those communities to put in for those earmarks in the next budget cycle.”
In total, 33 cities and towns, including Boston, Everett, Quincy and Worcester, are all receiving less money than expected. The Barnstable County Fire and Rescue Training Academy and a statewide cancer screening program for firefighters are also being impacted, the latter losing out on $300,000, MacKinnon said.
Healey has authorized the state Department of Fire Services to apply unspent funding from last year’s budget for firefighter cancer screening toward this year’s screenings, and with that adjustment, officials say they expect to meet the anticipated demand for the services through June.
In his letter last month, MacKinnon highlighted how the Easton Fire Department was slated to get $50,000 for equipment purchases instead of the initial $100,000, while the Taunton Fire Department, initially designated $500,000 for upgrades to a fire station, was being cut to $250,000.
Despite the disappointment that the governor made the cuts last month, MacKinnon said PFFM is glad to see her administration continue a Firefighter Safety Equipment Grant program that delivered $5 million in awards to 321 departments this week.
The grants provide reimbursements for purchases of a wide range of equipment including hoses and nozzles, turnout gear and ballistic protective equipment, among others.
“Every single day, firefighters across Massachusetts put themselves in harm’s way to protect their communities,” Healey said in a release. “They deserve our thanks and our support.”