EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 17, 2013

Officials push to restore sand funding

Costello: $300K budget cut by governor was 'very shortsighted'

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SALISBURY — Local legislators are vowing to fight to restore the $300,000 to replenish the sand on Salisbury Beach after the line item was among the vetoes by Gov. Deval Patrick to the state budget last week.

Winter storms ravaged the beach and its dunes system along Salisbury Beach, which is owned by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. DCR spent about $166,000 from its budget to bring in 15,000 cubic yards of sand to replenish small portions of the beach. But 15,000 cubic yards of sand was far less than what was needed to restore the hardest hit areas of the dunes in front of vulnerable homes between beach access ways 6 and 8.

As a result, state Rep. Michael Costello, D-Newburyport, and state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, set out to earmark $300,000 in the FY2014 budget so DCR could purchase more sand to finish the job. Although the money was in the House’s version of the budget, by the time the budget made it out of the Senate chamber, the $300,000 had disappeared.

Both legislators were successful in getting the money restored by the budget Conference Committee, however, so the final budget document went to Patrick’s desk with the $300,000 in it.

Then, on Friday, Patrick used his power to veto scores of budget line items, including local aid and the line that held the money for Salisbury Beach.

“I think that was very shortsighted when it comes to the administration’s priorities,” Costello said yesterday. “We wouldn’t have needed to ask for that $300,000 if we could have worked things out (with DCR) on where to put the sand.”

Costello can think of only two reasons why Patrick vetoed such a crucial item needed to ensure the health of Salisbury Beach. The budget raises the Beach Preservation Trust Fund surcharge on parking and camping fees from $1 to $2, Costello said, and perhaps Patrick believes that with this additional alternative funding mechanism, DCR doesn’t need the additional $300,000 to buy sand.

But, Costello added, it could also be that Salisbury Beach was caught between political forces.

“The second reason could be that the governor vetoed the money because I didn’t support his $1.9 billion tax increase plan,” Costello said. “(The Legislature is) in a heated debate over that because we gave him $500 million for his tax plan. He could be using his vetoes as leverage.”

At the start of budget season, Patrick announced an ambitious tax plan that would provide almost $2 billion in additional state dollars to be used to augment education and transportation funding, calling it his “legacy.” Patrick also announced he will not be running for re-election.

Salisbury Beach Betterment Association President Ray Champagne expressed dismay Monday when he heard Patrick had vetoed the money for Salisbury Beach, as did SBBA member John Housiantis.

“I’m very disappointed in Gov. Patrick,” said Housiantis, an active member of Salisbury’s Town Democratic Committee. “I worked on the governor’s re-election. I made calls for him; I held signs. We have to make calls to our legislators to get an override of that veto.”

Costello said that’s exactly where it stands.

“I’ve been on the phone the whole morning about this,” Costello said. “I’ve been speaking with (House Ways and Means Committee Chairman) Brian Dempsey’s office to tell them how much we need to take this up for an override vote.”

The Ways and Means Committee has been meeting to discuss the vetoes and will make recommendations to the House on the which of the vetoed items the committee will recommend for an override. According to Costello’s chief of staff, Adam Martignetti, Dempsey, from Haverhill, has been sympathetic to Salisbury Beach’s needs, he said, due to the relationship Haverhill residents have with the beach.

Costello expects the House to deal with the transportation package today, and start addressing overrides following that, extending over coming days and even weeks. He’s hopeful the money for the beach can be restored, but it’s going to be a long process.

“We need a two-thirds majority in each house to override each veto,” Costello said. “I’m absolutely going to fight for it.”

The same message came from O’Connor Ives’ legislative director, who said the senator is committed to getting the money.

“The Senate will get the issue after the House deals with it,” said O’Connor Ives’ deputy chief of staff Maria Syrniotis. “(The Senate is) in session on Thursday. We’ve worked hand in hand with Rep. Costello’s office on this from the start and we’re continuing to do so.”