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Barrett Names 3 Budget Priorities

State Sen. Mike Barrett, D-Lexington, names several budget priorities.

As debates shape up over this year’s state budget, area Sen. Mike Barrett is targeting three perpetually underfunded areas for improvement:  Increasing salaries of direct care staff who work with the physically and intellectually disabled; climate change and toxic chemical reductions; and support for local courts. 

“I’m focusing on areas that have been walloped,” Barrett said in a statement.  “The increases I’m proposing would not restore funding to old levels, but they would strike a better balance.”

Of the eight line items Barrett has singled out, one benefits direct care providers -- people who work with the disabled. Salaries for direct care staff hover in the mid-$20,000 range.  Barrett, who was recently appointed Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, also wants to ensure that teenage parents are not without assistance for themselves or their child.

On the environment, Barrett supports the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI), located at UMass Lowell.  TURI helps businesses, such as dry cleaners, completely stop using a cancer-causing chemical.  He also believes that hazardous waste sites need to be monitored thoroughly and our cleanup capabilities improved, which could prevent noxious chemicals from harming those who live or work near a site.

Additionally, Barrett is recommending that trial courts hire additional staff.  The number of workers, such as clerks, has decreased over the last several years, leading to longer lines and delayed hearings for everything from divorce cases to child custody disputes.

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Anna Bucciarelli February 28, 2013 at 05:08 PM
Iron Mike ... They do it out of empathy, many of them, and some are so absorbed in their work that they actually take individuals into their homes in what is called "shared living," which is similar to foster care for individuals who have no families and it is a cheaper and better alternative to group homes, giving the individual a family to live with and participate in "normal activities. I never would refer to raising salary limits as taxes ... even you must admit that living on +/- 20K/year is difficult at best, impossible for folks who have kids. Why would you be against them earning a decent wage ... I don't understand. Realistically, I-Mike, not everyone can access higher learning for variable reasons, some finances, some basic intelligence, etc., but they can provide this much-needed service and are good at it for the most part. I think they deserve decent wages, at least as much as caretakers in nursing homes, or even nurses in hospitals. Lastly, FYI, Charity plays a very big role for many of the agencies providing services to the DD ... many of them could not function without contributions and, believe it or not, the very underpaid staff often contribute the most! How 'bout them apples? Trust me, Mike, I really know whereof I speak on this one.
Anna Bucciarelli February 28, 2013 at 05:24 PM
All that said, I agree Barrett appears have inserted this issue on his agenda to make it appear to be all of our problem when, actually, it is not. Agencies receive State funds (tho that is altered down each year) and contributions to consider raising salaries, but it is hard to do in light of all other expenses in running an agency such as this. It has little to do with taxes, it has to do with how the Governor structures his budget to fit this need into the overall picture. Getting back to education, a few years ago one of the local agencies to which I am aligned worked hard to simply get certification for our caregivers, achieved it and since has provided them with actual training opportunities and many of them have achieved this goal, were so serious about learning all they could, and still no salary increase, just a prestigious and wonderful effort on the part of the students of this program, so proud to be "graduated" and feeling so accomplished.
pmotw February 28, 2013 at 05:26 PM
The competitive market should be the main factor in how job compensation is determined. Politicians have no business sticking there noses and hands into many of these issues. Once they do, the corruption and inequity begins. People work hard in many roles and are compensated on a simple supply and demand principal. The last thing we need is a politician hand picking who should get what.
Anna Bucciarelli February 28, 2013 at 08:04 PM
pmotw ... I agree, bad idea to hand pick, and that is why I stated that Barrett inserted salary increases for the providers of services to DD individuals to possibly perk up his image. However, I need to be careful here since he is the Senate Chair for the committee that oversees the functions of children & families & DD persons, and angering him may not at all be in their best interest. So, I will give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he truly cares and will work toward equality for them without it costing us a bundle.
x June 06, 2013 at 12:21 AM
During this night of political debate we can wonder what 'Senator' Mike Barrett is doing to us...er, for us. Reverend Reverend E. Raleigh Pimperton iii

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