Baker Rebukes Legislature, Proposes Spending $2.8 Billion in ARPA Funds

Photo: Getty Images

BOSTON (State House News Service) — The battle over who gets to spend nearly $5.2 billion in federal relief money raged on Thursday with Gov. Charlie Baker refusing to sign a bill that would give full control to the Legislature, and instead proposing a plan to spend more than half on priorities such as home ownership assistance.

Baker visited Haverhill on Thursday where he detailed his proposal to allocate about $2.8 billion in federal relief money quickly, while leaving it to the Legislature to determine how it would like to spend the remaining funds.

The governor pitched his plan on the same day he faced a deadline to act on a bill passed by the Legislature that would sweep nearly $5.18 billion into a new Coronavirus State Fiscal Recovery Fund, which would be subject to appropriation by lawmakers.

READ MORE: Mass. Towns Urge To Stop Spraying Pesticides Due To Water Contamination

By doing so, Democratic leaders voted to strip Baker of the authority to spend the relief money as he sees fit. The governor on Thursday returned that bill (H 3827) with an amendment that would allow the money to be transferred to the new fund, but would also appropriate more than half of it immediately.

Baker's return of the bill to the Legislature keeps the federal funding in limbo a month after Massachusetts received the lump sum of aid through the American Rescue Plan Act. Legislative leaders have not laid out a timetable for developing a spending plan of their own, and aides to Baker say the governor is reticent to start spending the relief money on his own with leaders in the House and Senate on record as wanting more control over how the funding gets spread around.

However, the governor has already released $109 million to the cities of Chelsea, Everett, Methuen and Randolph, who missed out on a chunk of federal aid due to quirks in the federal funding formula.

Earlier this week, he said he intended to use ARPA funding to pay for a new vaccine Lottery. The "VaxMillions" giveaway rolled out by Baker and Treasure Deb Goldberg is intended to encourage unvaccinated residents to get the shot and features 10 prizes totaling $6.5 million, including five $1 million prizes and five $300,000 college scholarships for entrants under 18.

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content