Posts Tagged ‘state budget’

Governor’s proposed Fiscal ’22 increase to DDS corporate residential providers is apparently higher than what the state is reporting

March 12, 2021 2 comments

While we knew that Governor’s Baker’s proposed Fiscal 2022 state budget includes a major increase to the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) corporate provider-based residential system, we didn’t know how high that proposed increase actually is.

That’s because the amount of Baker’s increase appears to be under-reported by some $36 million on the state’s website.

The state budget site on currently lists the governor’s proposed funding for the provider residential line item (5920-2000) as $1.41 billion for the coming fiscal year. That would amount to a $121 million, or 9.4%, increase over the amount appropriated for the current fiscal year. That’s what we reported in our COFAR Blog post on February 2.

But according to the nonpartisan Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MBPC), which tracks the state budget, Baker’s real proposed funding for the provider residential line item is $1.44 billion – an amount $36.4 million higher than the number reported on The real increase being proposed by Baker is $157 million, or 12.2%.

The reason for the higher funding amount, according to the MBPC, is a proposed, but unreported transfer by the administration of $36.4 million to the provider residential line item from another DDS line item — the Turning-22 account (line item 5920-5000).

The provider residential line item is one of five DDS accounts to which the administration has proposed transferring a total of $55.4 million from the Turning-22 account. Turning-22 funds programs for persons entering the DDS system at the age of 22.

The site lists proposed Fiscal 22 funding for the Turning-22 account of $79.9 million, which would be an increase over the current year of $54.9 million, or 219%. But as a result of the line-item transfers, rather than providing an increase of $54.9 million to the Turning-22 line item, the governor’s FY 22 budget would actually cut the Turning-22 line item by $877,900, according to the MBPC.

It’s not clear to us why the administration has proposed the transfers among the DDS accounts, and it remains to be seen whether the House Ways & Means Committee, which is now considering the governor’s FY22 budget, will adopt the  transfers.

It’s also not clear that the administration is intentionally trying to mislead website users in failing to include the amounts transferred among the line items. Nevertheless, the misleading reporting is worrisome to us for a number of reasons.

One reason is that we have long been concerned that the provider residential line item has been steadily increased by successive administrations and by the Legislature at the expense of state-run programs and other accounts. It now appears to be getting an even larger increase than is being reported publicly.

We contacted the MBPC earlier this week after noticing several discrepancies between the DDS line item numbers on he site and the numbers that can be accessed via the MBPC’s online “Budget Browser.”

The Budget Browser is a database of state budget line item amounts since Fiscal 2001, and it provides additional numbers adjusted for inflation.

An MBPC analyst confirmed the DDS line-item discrepancies, and explained the transfer situation to us. The MBPC received a list of the transfers from the administration and forwarded the list to us. The analyst said the transfers themselves are an internal accounting process used in comparing budget numbers over multiple years. If that’s the case, it is still not clear to us why those adjusted numbers are not reported on

The transfers are displayed in the chart below, along with the governor’s DDS budget amounts as reported on, and the adjusted amounts available from the MBPC via its Budget Browser.

Governor’s budget overstates proposed cut to DDS Day and Transportation accounts

In addition to the proposed transfer of funding to the provider residential line item, Baker has proposed a transfer of $9.6 million from Turning-22 to the Community Day and Work line item.

Based on the site, it appears Baker proposed an overall cut to the Community Day line item of $36.6 million. But due to the transfer from the Turning-22 account, the governor’s proposed cut to the Community Day account would actually be $25 million. That is still a concerning cut, but the transfer would make that cut smaller than it appears on the site.

Baker has proposed additional transfers from the Turning-22 account to the DDS Transportation line item ($4.7 million); Autism Omnibus line item ($4 million), and Respite and Family Services ($613,000).

No transfers proposed into state-funded program line items

Baker has proposed zero transfers to state-run accounts such as the state-operated group homes and developmental centers.  As we reported, Baker’s FY 22 budget would shortchange state-operated group homes and developmental centers.

The state-operated group home line item would be cut by $898,600 under the governor’s budget, when adjusted for inflation. The developmental center line item would, as usual, be cut — this time by $2.1 million.

As we’ve previously noted, the major increases in funding to the provider-based line item since FY12 have enabled the corporate providers in the DDS system to garner sizeable surplus revenues in the intervening years. Those surpluses have enabled the providers to provide yearly increases in executive salaries, but have not translated into living wages for direct-care workers employed by them.

We will submit testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee shortly, raising our concerns about the unreported DDS transfers. We are particularly concerned and have questions about the major transfer of funds out of the Turning-22 account.

We would also urge the administration to correct the budget site to reflect the true line item numbers under Baker’s Fiscal 22 budget proposal.

Opaque Massachusetts budget process hides state’s real priorities

January 13, 2017 Leave a comment

In a preview this week of the Fiscal 2018 state budget, the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center points out a key shortcoming in the budget process.

That process is not transparent, the nonpartisan think tank argues, because it doesn’t provide a needed context for the proposals and decisions that the governor and Legislature make.

As the Budget and Policy Center notes, that needed context lies in the release of a public “maintenance budget” that discloses the projected costs of continuing “current services” from one fiscal year to the next. Without that “maintenance budget” context, it is difficult, if not impossible, for the public to really know whether proposed funding levels are meeting real needs or falling short of them.

The problem can be clearly seen in the current-year funding of group homes operated by the Department of Developmental Services.

Last January, Governor Baker proposed a $3.7 million — or 1.7 percent — increase in the DDS state-operated group home line item. But while that sounds like more funding for those facilities, it was in actuality a cut when adjusted for inflation.  The inflation rate was 1.8 percent, according to the Policy Center’s numbers.

Moreover, the funding increase proposed by the governor for the state-operated group homes was reportedly about $500,000 less than what DDS wanted in order to maintain current services in the residences. That $500,000 figure, however, wasn’t readily available to the public. The figure was casually mentioned by DDS Commissioner Elin Howe during a conference call on the budget last year with advocates for the developmentally disabled.

At the same time, Howe didn’t intend to do anything about that actual shortfall in funding for the state-operated group homes.  As we noted last May, while Howe admitted the funding proposed by the governor for the group homes was inadequate, she also said DDS did not intend to seek an amendment in the House budget to increase that funding. Howe’s response to us was, “we’re just going to have to manage it.”

This is exactly why the maintenance budget disclosure is needed as part of the process. It would give the public a better insight into what the governor and Legislature actually intend with their budget proposals and deliberations.

It appears to us that the DDS mindset is that it is not worthwhile to push even for maintenance-level funding for the state-operated group homes and potentially other state-run programs. That’s because the Department’s ultimate priority or aim, as we see it, is to privatize these services.

Interestingly, the Budget and Policy Center also pointed out that certain other budgetary accounts were underfunded in the current fiscal year, including a human services account that helps fund corporate provider-run or privatized group homes in the DDS system. That account was underfunded by $14.7 million. However, the administration apparently plans to fully fund those accounts next year, the Center noted.

Partly as a result of the unfunded accounts and the use of a host of one-time revenues and temporary solutions to balance the current-year budget, the Policy Center is projecting a $616 million budget shortfall in Fiscal 2018.

The Policy Center’s preview suggested that one of the major reasons for the Legislature’s underfunding of the privatized group home and other accounts was the lack of a publicly available maintenance budget document. The Policy Center points out that 19 other states publish a maintenance budget document, but Massachusetts is not among them.

The Policy Center is also calling for the public release of a baseline tax revenue growth estimate. This sounds like a suggestion that the administration adjust its usual revenue projections to take into account any tax cuts or tax increases that have been enacted.  As the Policy Center noted,

The initial tax revenue growth estimates for FY 2017 were unusually optimistic, but there was no easy way to see that because of the way the estimates were presented.

We concur with the Budget and Policy Center’s recommendations, particularly on the need for disclosure of a maintenance budget. The more information the public has with which to assess the budgetary process, the better off we are, and this appears to be a key piece of missing information.

We thought there was a state budget deficit

December 1, 2014 1 comment

Given that the Patrick administration is projecting a $329 million state budget deficit in the current fiscal year and is seeking to cut millions of dollars in local aid and other accounts, why are they also proposing more than $42 million in additional funding in the current year for corporate providers that contract with the Department of Developmental Services?

While the administration has made more than $200 million in emergency “9C” cuts  and has proposed additional cuts, it has filed a supplemental budget appropriation to add $42.5 million to the DDS Adult Long-term Residential (corporate provider) line item.  The supplemental funding for the providers, by the way, is listed in the same bill filed by the administration that proposes mid-year cuts in local aid and other accounts.

It’s not as though DDS itself is being spared the funding cuts.  As part of the 9C reductions, two DDS line items are being cut: the Community Day and Work line item by $3 million, and Respite Family Supports by $2.5 million.

But the DDS providers are getting multiple funding increases.  As of July 1, the administration and Legislature had agreed to raise the provider line item by $159 million from the previous fiscal year, pushing it over the $1 billion mark.  The reason for that nearly 20 percent increase in funding in one year was to fully fund higher payment rates to the providers that were agreed to in legislation enacted in 2008 and known as “Chapter 257.”

But even that $159 million increase this year wasn’t apparently enough.  The $42.5 million supplemental appropriation now being sought by the administration is supposedly to make up for a continuing shortfall in fully implementing the Chapter 257 rate increases for the providers.

But why make up that Chapter 257 shortfall now while we’re facing a state budget deficit? Chapter 257 has apparently not been fully funded since it was enacted in 2008, so why is it so important to commit $42 million to it now?

Meanwhile, in light of the planned $42 million increase to the providers, the decision to cut at least one of the two DDS programs –Respite Family Supports by $2.5 million — is especially puzzling.   Respite care involves short-­term, out­-of­-home supports for individuals with developmental disabilities who live at home.  It allows  parents  and  other primary  caregivers  to  handle  personal matters, emergencies, or simply take a break.  In fact, DDS listed its commitment to supporting families who care at home for developmentally disabled individuals as the third of its top five strategic goals for fiscal 2012 through 2014.

The DDS strategic plan goes on to promise that:

The Family Support account will provide the resources needed to provide vital respite care, in-home skills development, social programs and support groups for parents and siblings.

The administration and Legislature had, in fact, approved a $2.5 million — or roughly 5 percent — increase in the Respite Family Supports account as of the start of the fiscal year on July 1.  So taking that increase away now amounts to an effective cut in inflation-adjusted terms in this “vital” program.  The fact that the money is being rescinded in the middle of the year effectively doubles the impact of that cut to $5 million on an annualized basis.

The DDS Community Day line item had been increased by $11.8 million from the previous fiscal year, apparently in part to help fund the transfers of people from sheltered workshops to day programs.  In addition, the Legislature had approved two reserve funds totaling $3 million to help fund that same transfer from sheltered workshops to day and employment programs.

The mid-year cut in the Community Day account of that same $3 million amount may make some sense given that language was approved in the current-year budget preventing the planned closures of sheltered workshops.  If the workshops are going to stay open past this coming June, DDS won’t need the funding they were originally projecting to transfer people to day programs.

But while the Community Day account cut might make some sense, the cut to the Respite Family account seems to make much less sense.  And when considered in light of the extra millions going to the providers, the Respite Family cut seems downright cruel.

In fact, we might take this occasion to ask what happened to the additional $80 to $110 million in Medicaid funding from the federal government that was going to be used to “increase community services and decrease institutional settings in Massachusetts?”  As the Massachusetts Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers stated, “the activities of DDS comprise a significant part of the base for this (additional Medicaid) award…”

If we have received up to $110 million in additional Medicaid funding this year, why not use that to help solve the budget deficit, and at least prevent cuts to critical programs such as Respite Family care?  Moreover, we hope the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees will see fit to put the administration’s proposed $42 million increase in state funding to the DDS providers on hold, at least while we’re dealing with the current budget shortfall.

%d bloggers like this: