Lawmakers Look At Budget; National Grid Under Scrutiny

By Sarah Birnbaum

Feb. 14, 2011

BOSTON — Action in Massachusetts politics this week will focus on the state budget and a tussle over unemployment insurance rates. Read on for a comprehensive look at the week ahead in Massachusetts politics.

Gov. Deval Patrick is scheduled to sit down today with House Speaker Robert Deleo and Senate President Therese Murray for their weekly planning meeting.  Last week's meeting was canceled after Speaker Deleo slipped on the ice in his driveway and broke an ankle. Deleo will be there this week, fitted out in a new cast and crutches.

On Tuesday, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation releases a report detailing how much money cities and towns can expect to pay for health care benefits for future retirees.

On Wednesday, public utility officials investigate electricity giant National Grid.  The company's much-criticized response to the December 26th blizzard is the subject of a hearing in Bridgewater.  Attorney General Martha Coakley plans to testify.

Also on Wednesday, the Massachusetts House of Representatives takes up a bill to delay a sharp spike in unemployment insurance rates, which is scheduled for March.  The average employer could see payments go up by $230 per employee per year.  The Senate has already voted to put off the increase for another year.

And on Friday, lawmakers hold a hearing on the governor's budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year.  Patrick's spending plan makes deep cuts to human services and closes two yet-to-be-named prisons. It increases funding for youth violence prevention and for special education.  Friday's budget hearing in Boston is the second stop on a statewide tour that will eventually hit Amherst, Fitchburg, Brockton, Methuen and Pittsfield.  The House budget plan is due in April.

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