AIDS Action, MassCreative & MassBudget React to Gov. Patrick’s Budget

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masscreative_smBy: Christine Nicco/TRT Reporter—

BOSTON, Mass.—Today, AIDS Action and MassCreative had strong reactions to Governor Deval Patrick’s 2015 budget proposal, which includes cuts to their respective agencies: AIDS Action; and MassCreative as it pertained to arts and culture. MassBudget, in contrast, agreed with Patrick’s budget and praised its financial reach given the “tax” circumstances that the commonwealth is facing, according to one of its officers.

“The budget released today by Governor Deval Patrick is not enough to sustain the fight against HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts. State funding for outreach, prevention, and testing of HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis has been slashed by nearly 40% since 2000,” said AIDS Action CEO, Rebecca Haag, on her statement regarding the governor’s recommended funding of HIV/AIDS and Viral Hepatitis in State Budget. “During that same period, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts has increased 44%, placing an even greater burden on already strained providers and services. Meanwhile, the numbers of those living with viral hepatitis continues to increase by approximately 7,000 to 10,000 people per year, with explosive growth among those aged 15-24 due largely to shared use of injection drug equipment.  [pullquote]“The budget released today by Governor Deval Patrick is not enough to sustain the fight against HIV/AIDS in Massachusetts. … Public investment in public health pays off. Since 1999, new diagnoses of HIV in Massachusetts have declined 52 percent, which has spared over 6,300 people from HIV infection, and will save the state more than $2.4 billion in health care costs. …” — Rebecca Haag, AIDS Action CEO [/pullquote]

“Public investment in public health pays off. Since 1999, new diagnoses of HIV in Massachusetts have declined 52 percent, which has spared over 6,300 people from HIV infection, and will save the state more than $2.4 billion in health care costs. We urge lawmakers to increase funding for HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis by $4 million to $36.1 million to ensure that this progress is sustained.

“The Commonwealth also needs increased investment in testing and education for viral hepatitis, which causes inflammation of the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and increased risk of liver cancer. There are as many as 200,000 people living with hepatitis C in Massachusetts today. People can live with hepatitis for a decade or more before learning they have the disease, which greatly complicates their eventual treatment and increases the costs of care. Additionally, 14 percent of those living with HIV in Massachusetts are also co-infected with hepatitis C, which complicates treatment and dramatically drives up treatment costs. It is critical that the Commonwealth expands its outreach efforts to vulnerable populations to ensure that they are tested for hepatitis so that they can begin treatment as early in the disease progression as possible.”

Like AIDS Action, MassCreative’s Executive Director, Matt Wilson, released his statement to Patrick’s budget cuts to the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Rebecca Haag, Executive Director of the AIDS Action Committee  Photo: AIDS Action Committee

Rebecca Haag, Executive Director of the AIDS Action Committee
Photo: AIDS Action Committee

“We are disappointed with Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed allocation to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which cuts the state’s investment in arts and culture by $1.5 million. Massachusetts is home to large-scale museums, theaters, and orchestras, as well as numerous community-based playhouses and art centers that drive our economy, enhance the academic performance of our students, and build vibrant, connected communities. Core to the success of these cultural institutions is public investment in the arts through the Massachusetts Cultural Council. The budget released today by Governor Deval Patrick is a step in the wrong direction. [pullquote]“We are disappointed with Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed allocation to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which cuts the state’s investment in arts and culture by $1.5 million.” —Matt Wilson, MassCreative’s ED.[/pullquote]

“Over the past 25 years, the Commonwealth’s investment in the creative community has declined nearly 60 percent. Twenty-five years ago, the state invested $27 million in the creative community; 10 years ago that investment was $19 million. Today, it stands at $11.1 million and Gov. Patrick’s proposal would bring it to $9.6 million. Arts organizations in Massachusetts, particularly the smaller and community-based ones that do so much for the downtowns of our Gateway Cities, and enhance the educations of under-resourced youth, operate below full capacity and are not having the impact that they could be having on the economic health and educational success of our cities and towns.

“Last week, MASSCreative delivered petitions to the State House signed by more than 3,000 voters voicing strong support for a $5 million increase to the Massachusetts Cultural Council budget, bringing it to $16.1 million. We look forward to reversing the Governor’s proposed cuts and working with lawmakers to achieve this goal and support the creative community as it continues to make Massachusetts a desirable place in which to live, work, and play.”

At the same time, Noah Berger, President of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center — also responded to the Governor’s budget proposal for FY 2015. His statement, in contrast to the former, focused on priorities for the commonwealth and its youth, while stressing that without “tax revenue” only some allocations can be made.

“This budget sets smart priorities—including targeted investments in education, some innovative reforms in criminal justice, and a commitment to fiscal responsibility—but there is a lot of work still to be done to create an economy that can deliver broadly shared prosperity.  Without significant new tax revenue the Governor is not able to make the kinds of investments that could really strengthen our economy in the long run by ensuring that all of our young people get the support they need to reach their full potential.”

Questions about the budget should be directed to MassBudget via Luc Schuster at lschuster@massbudget.org or 617-426-1228 x101.

AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is the state’s leading provider of prevention and wellness services for people vulnerable to HIV infection. It provides services to one in six people in Massachusetts living with an HIV diagnosis. These services include HIV counseling and testing; needle exchange; mental health counseling; housing assistance; and legal services. AIDS Action works to prevent new HIV infections, support those affected by HIV, and tackle the root causes of HIV/AIDS by educating the public and health professionals about HIV prevention and care; and advocating for fair and effective HIV/AIDS policy at the city, state, and federal levels. Founded in 1983, AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts is New England’s first and largest AIDS service organization. In 2013, AIDS Action formed a strategic alliance with Fenway Health that will allow the two organizations to work more closely together and improve delivery of care and services to people living with HIV/AIDS. Learn more at www.aac.org

Founded in 2012, MASSCreative works with creative leaders and entrepreneurs, working artists, arts educators, and arts and cultural supporters to empower creative organizations and the public with a powerful voice to advocate for the resources and support necessary to build vibrant and connected communities.

[Some content included in this report is from press releases]