BOSTON (AP) — Wielding the veto pen for the first time is a pivotal moment for any new governor, when the glossy promises of the campaign run up against hard budgetary math.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s first round of budget cuts is drawing the ire of transportation and arts activists to advocates for the homeless and the new president of the University of Massachusetts.
Baker issued the $162 million in vetoes last Friday as he signed the $38.1 million state budget for the 2016 fiscal year. Baker said the vetoes include $38 million in cuts to earmarks, which typically fund individual projects or programs supported by top lawmakers.
After issuing the vetoes, Baker headed out of the state for a week to attend meetings of the Republican Governors Association in Colorado and spend a few days in Aspen with his wife.
In many cases Baker said the cuts were needed to reduce a line item to the amount he suggested in his version of the budget. In signing the budget, Baker noted that he and lawmakers had worked to close an estimated $1.8 billion gap.
That’s not sitting well with those on the receiving end of some of those cuts, who are pressing Democratic leaders in the House and Senate to reverse Baker’s vetoes.
The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless faulted Baker for trimming $2 million for housing and services for those aged 24 and younger who are experiencing homelessness outside the care of a parent or guardian.
“Youth without homes can’t wait another year for state government to respond to their urgent needs,” said Kelly Turley of the homeless coalition.
The group is also calling for lawmakers to overturn another Baker veto that cut $3 million from the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, which helps families stay in their homes.
The homeless activists weren’t alone.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council faulted a $2 million Baker cut, which they said will make it harder for expand access to the arts for everyone, while transportation activists urged lawmakers to override Baker’s veto of another $2 million for regional transit authorities and $3 million for the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund.
University of Massachusetts President Marty Meehan also said he was disappointed by a veto that reduced funding for the five-campus UMass system from the $531.8 million approved by a House-Senate conference committee to $526.6 million.
Democrats were quick to tweak Baker on the timing of his trip to Colorado, coming right after the vetoes.
“Instead of hobnobbing with Republican presidential candidates at an exclusive Colorado confab, Republican Baker should be in Massachusetts answering” for his cuts, said Massachusetts Democratic Party spokesman Pat Beaudry.
Senate President Stanley Rosenberg was also less than thrilled.
The Amherst Democrat put out a statement after Baker signed the budget saying he had serious concerns about many of the Baker’s vetoes, particularly related to education, where Baker trimmed programs ranging from early childhood to colleges and universities.
“Given the increasing importance of education in closing the income gap and giving kids a decent chance in a highly competitive economy, cuts to these programs are shortsighted at best,” Rosenberg said. “The Senate will take a hard look at these and other cuts as we consider these vetoes.”
Baker acknowledged Friday that the Legislature “is fully within their rights to take up any vetoes they want to take up.”
“We believe that some of the decisions we made were important to make sure we start the year with a balanced budget going forward, but it is up to them,” he said. “That’s how it’s supposed to work. I’m fine with that.”
Lawmakers could begin debating overrides to Baker’s vetoes as early as next week.
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