Mass. House backs $50M in added snow removal funds

Posted March 30, 2011, at 9:39 p.m.

BOSTON — The Massachusetts House voted Wednesday to spend nearly $50 million to replenish the state’s depleted snow and ice removal budget, even as a late-season storm was bearing down on the region with the potential for up to a foot of snow in some areas.

The money was approved as part of a $325 million supplemental spending plan that now moves to the Senate.

The state’s snow and ice removal account was battered by a series of storms during a harsh winter. Dozens of roofs collapsed across the state and highway crews were hard-pressed to keep roadways passable.

And it may not be over. The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for central and western Massachusetts in advance of a nor’easter that could bring significant snowfall late Thursday night and Friday.

Republicans in the House unsuccessfully sought an additional $25 million in state funds that would go directly to cities and towns to help offset their local snow removal costs.

The GOP lawmakers argued that local communities that have incurred huge expenses over the winter deserve help from the state, especially with another storm looming.

“The winter isn’t over even though spring has started,” said Paul Frost, R-Auburn.

Republicans argued that the help for local communities could come from state tax revenues that were running ahead of projections for the current fiscal year.

The House blocked the Republican effort by voting 118-34 for a Democratic-sponsored amendment calling for further study of the question.

“We don’t have an endless pot of money,” said Rep. Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, who noted that state funds for snow removal did not appear to be a major priority for cities and towns in his district.

Also included in the spending plan passed by the House was $30 million to cover the cost of salary adjustments and other economic benefits authorized by a collective bargaining agreement by state court workers.

The bill also contained several nonbudgetary items, including one aimed at protecting children from obscene electronic messages sent to them by suspected sexual predators.

The measure would update state law by barring anyone from using electronic means, such as emails or text messages, to purposefully disseminate harmful material to a person they know or believe to be a minor.

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