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What happens when Massachusetts runs out of money for migrant housing?

State Sen. Peter Durant on migrant crisis, state spending, and why so many are leaving politics
State Sen. Peter Durant on migrant crisis, state spending, and why so many are leaving politics 08:48

BOSTON – We're entering the height of budget season on Beacon Hill, when billions of dollars worth of decisions are made that will impact your schools, taxes and everything else state government touches.

Massachusetts State Sen. Peter Durant (R-Spencer) told WBZ-TV the budget priorities coming from Gov. Maura Healey and the Democrat-dominated legislature are "a bit misplaced."

Concerns over Massachusetts budget

Durant said the governor talks a good game about making the state more affordable and helping cities and towns cope with inflation.

"But I don't see that necessarily reflected in the budget. What we've seen is some large increases in MassHealth … primarily due to the migrant crisis that's happening right now," he said. "In addition, we see that local aid going to cities and towns has started to slip a bit from where we used to do. Charlie Baker always made sure that if the budget increased by 4%, locally, [local aid] increased by the same amount. This year we're seeing that while the governor did that, the House pared it back [to] just 1%, which is completely unacceptable."

Criticism of Gov. Healey

Durant, the newest member of the Senate who won a formerly Democratic seat last year, was also critical of the governor's proposal to make it easier for cities and towns to increase local taxes.

"It is really misdirected to say we're going to allow cities and towns to increase their own taxes in various ways," he said. "We know that there's a proposal for a local property transfer tax. And when I hear things like that, I really think that's just political posturing which says 'I'm not going to increase your taxes but I'm gonna let you to go ahead and do it yourself.' And I think that's the wrong direction for our state."

Budget impact from Massachusetts migrant crisis

With the state on the verge of exhausting its budget to pay for shelter and services for the migrants coming into Massachusetts over the past year, we asked Durant what happens if there's no help forthcoming from the federal government.

"I don't think we can count on the feds," he said. "They have allocated another $6 million to give to the state, which is really just a drop in the bucket for us here in Massachusetts. The governor has said if we run out, which is supposed to happen sometime this month, she has a few other levers to pull. But we are running out of money for this program. More money has to be put in. And this is a big debate for us here on Beacon Hill."

Sen. Durant also discussed the status of federal work permits for migrants and the high number of retirements of longtime legislators at the State House.

Watch the entire interview in the video player above, and join us every Sunday morning at 8:35 a.m. for more newsmaker interviews on Boston's most-watched Sunday morning political interview program.

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