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Denise Andrews’ challengers hit on budget comments

Both Republican challengers for the North Quabbin’s legislative seat took aim at incumbent Rep. Denise Andrews, D-Orange, for saying that she had not read the state budget but planned to vote for it anyway.

The comment was made on the House floor during Monday’s debate, before last-minute passage of the budget that technically covers the fiscal year that began Tuesday.

Susannah Whipps Lee of Athol and Karen Anderson of Orange both criticized Andrews for saying, according to a State House News Service report, that she trusts the conference committee and the “due diligence” with which the spending bill was assembled over the past several months.

“So when someone asks me have I read the 500 pages that came out this morning, I printed them off, I’m glancing through them,” the two-term incumbent Democrat said. “But I haven’t read it and I won’t because I believe in the process that we’re engaged in. I came in three years ago and have witnessed nothing but excellence and fiscal management from the chairman of Ways and Means and his team.”

In a press statement Tuesday, Anderson said, “If she is just going to ‘rubber stamp’ whatever they propose, why do we need her there at all? ... We want a representative who will study every word, every number in the budget — because, after all, it is our money.” She pointed out that the $36.5 billion budget represents a $2 billion increase from this past year.

Lee said in a printed statement, “Ms. Andrews stated (in the transcript) that she held her faith in the Democratic leadership ... The purpose of representation is to ensure that every bill, every word of every budget is reviewed personally to guarantee the fiscal accountability, transparency and efficiency of our state government is ‘checked’ and ‘balanced.’”

Lee said that the idea of Andrews “voting blindly” for a budget without reviewing it “is not only unprofessional, but it doesn’t represent the desire of the tax-paying community for a real voice! ... I vow to read every bill, whether it is 500 pages or 5,000 pages. I will ensure that no budget, no spending bill is ever passed without debate.”

Andrews discusses bill process

Andrews said that although the final compromise report on which Monday’s vote came was worked out Sunday night, and she wasn’t able to print out a copy until about 10 a.m. Monday when she arrived at the Statehouse, followed by a 90-minute Democratic caucus late in the morning and a vote early in the afternoon, she had already read numerous versions of the budget and had depended on having her district’s best intentions represented by Ways and Means House Vice Chairman Stephen Kulik, D-Worthington, and Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer, D-Barre, whose district includes towns in her Second Franklin House of Representatives district.

She explained that she had three other bills to digest on Monday — including opiate addiction treatment, welfare reform and compounding pharmacy legislation — and she rose on the House floor to urge expediting the up-or-down vote on the final budget on the final day before the start of the new budget year that was beginning the following day.

“If it was necessary to read, if that was the first time we saw the content of it, then you darn well better believe we should have a week to go through it and put in our amendments,” Andrews said. “But here we are, at the end of the process of reading every paragraph, every line item, having multiple meetings in budget week, thousands of conversations and meetings across every single line item ... that’s the process. Then when it comes to the floor you amend it, and it goes for its final polish to the conference committee. The only action then is a ‘yes-no’ vote. ”

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 269

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