The President’s Budget: An O’Neill and Associates Education/Refresher on the Federal Budget Process

As we continue to assess the Trump administration’s policy initiatives, there is growing anticipation surrounding President Trump’s first budget. As we approach this milestone, we thought it would be helpful to share this review of the federal budget process.

Every year the President of the United States submits a budget request to Congress that is drafted in close coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The budget request outlines funding levels for all federal departments and independent agencies, including spending and revenue proposals as well as any new policies and initiatives with significant budget implications.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 says that “the President submit the budget between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February.” More recently, Presidents have traditionally sent a budget request to Congress the first week of February for the coming fiscal year, 2018 in this instance, which begins on October 1st. The budget submission is typically delayed in a new President’s first year in recognition of the complexities of transition.  Before the inauguration, the transition team indicated that we might anticipate a draft proposal or “skinny budget” from President Trump in the first 100 days. However, recent reports suggest that the Trump administration may be preparing a full budget request for as early as mid-March to late spring. This timing is not really surprising as the President’s nominee for OMB Director, South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney’s was only approved by the full Senate on February 16th – the longest confirmation wait for an OMB director ever according to RollCall.

More information on the agenda and funding priorities of the Trump administration will likely be revealed when the President addresses a joint session of Congress on February 28th.  President Trump’s speech will not be a formal State of the Union address. Newly inaugurated president’s often deliver a speech on their agenda and goals rather than an assessment on the state of the country. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing today that we can expect the President’s speech to include broad policy initiatives, focused on defining success, as well as look back at what he has accomplished the last month. Additionally the President will share some of his goals to work with Congress on healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure.  O’Neill and Associates’ federal lobbyists will be live tweeting the speech. You can follow along at #OAPolitics and a follow up analysis will be posted to our blog as well.

Once the President’s Budget request is finally released, it is referred to the House and Senate Budget Committees and to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for an analysis and scoring of the proposal to project the budgetary impact of policies.  With the budget request and CBO budget report, the committees each submit a budget resolution in the House and Senate, respectfully.  Budget resolutions have traditionally been submitted in early April, but we anticipate a later timeframe this year. The House and Senate each considers its own resolution before voting on and passing the resolution.  Once passed, the House and Senate each names a handful of members to a joint conference committee to negotiate a conference report – a reconciliation of any differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. The final joint budget resolution must be approved by both the House and Senate to be binding. Interestingly, the budget resolution is not a law and does not require the President’s signature. However, it is a guide for Congress in the appropriations process. In a future blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at the appropriations process and the role of Congress, the President and even the role clients can play with former House Appropriations Committee staffer, O’Neill and Associates Vice President AmyClaire Brusch.

Development Boom’s Benefit to Boston Residents

img_6120By Chris Tracy

With new development often comes neighborhood concern. Any project that adds more density, residential units and vehicular traffic to streets can cause anxiety and fear of what’s to come from new development. Boston is no stranger to these challenges; Bostonians love their unique neighborhoods and the quaintness that each individual neighborhood has to itself.

During the past few years, Boston has undergone tremendous growth, not only in the downtown and urban core but in every neighborhood in the City (Read about Boston’s Building Boom).  At some point in the development process, every project encounters residents who care deeply about their communities and are concerned with how their community might change. Some residents view new development as only catered to a future resident, with no benefit to existing residents. This is why the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA) and City of Boston staff often are met with the question from current residents: “How does this benefit me?”

Two recent Boston Globe articles (“Boston Reaps Tax Windfall from New Construction” and “Average Boston-Area Rent Falls for the First Time in Almost 7 Years”) have addressed how building new units and adding residents to the tax base can actually be a positive thing for current residents. In addition to softening tax bills for homeowners and lowering rents for renters, the new development and added tax base generates additional revenues for City services.

Every project will have supporters and detractors and messaging is central to both sides. Change is not always bad, and often times can have a tangible benefit to those who at first glance may not like the change being discussed.

To learn more about our community relations services visit our website www.oneillandassoc.com or call us at 617-646-1000.

CEO’s Corner: American Activism

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_III“We the People…” From our very founding, activism has been a fundamental element of the America’s DNA. Our Constitution not only declares, but protects our rights to activism—to assemble, to speak openly, to have a free press, and to choose our government. The activist spirit runs deep in Massachusetts. Colonial patriots in Boston and its suburbs rose up in 1775 to fight for freedom. Abolitionists like Amos Adams Lawrence expanded that fight in the 19th Century. Suffragists like Julia Ward Howe gave it additional meaning in the 20th Century.

In the past several decades, grassroots movements for civil rights and voting rights, worker protections, environmental protection, disabled and LGBT rights have inspired generations of Americans and changed our country for the better.

More recently the growth of the Tea Party movement and the 2016 presidential election energized  constituencies that rekindled American activism, and in turn have energized a force in response, as seen in the historic Women’s Marches in cities across the US and the world– and just last week in the response to the Trump Administration’s travel ban. I am very proud that Massachusetts continues to be a leader in so many of these initiatives.

While elections and marches are defined by messaging and voter turnout, successful movements also recognize the need to engage directly with Congress, and to seek opportunities to shape policy at the state level. The Trump Administration is only two weeks old but there has already been a flurry of executive actions and even a Supreme Court nomination. While every newly-elected President promises change, every Congress has a responsibility to vet that agenda.  And in an activist democracy every citizen has responsibility to express their support for or opposition to the direction the country is going.

Lawmaking is intentionally complex. The Founding Fathers and the legislative leaders that followed them recognized there is a purpose to process. The Congressional committee structure and House and Senate rules ensure time for thoughtful deliberation and adequate public input. Legislative delays are not always the enemy to progress, but rather an opportunity for debate. There will be votes and points of order at every turn as Congress considers repealing the Affordable Care Act, re-writing the tax code, increasing infrastructure investments, and perhaps radically amending regulations on immigration, banking, the environment, health care, and higher education. As these policy priorities are considered, legislative relationships will be critical and the voices of voters, industry and other stakeholders will be paramount.

I believe we will see a lot more American activism over the next four years. It’s what gave birth to our country and what for more than 200 years has made our country great.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s 2017 State-of-the-State

highres_120403_oneill_jamiedunbar-0269By: Jamie Dunbar

Having worked for two former Republican Governors in Massachusetts, I was struck by the Governor Baker’s closing remarks.  His words are a reminder of the class, collegiality and confidence we have been fortunate to witness in our great state.  At a time where our national elected leaders and political party apparatus are as divisive as they have ever been, Governor Charlie Baker made it clear that will not be the case here in Massachusetts.  Governor Baker addressed the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with his plans, commitments and strategies for the coming year.  He highlighted several accomplishments such as relocating GE’s headquarters to Boston and the efforts underway on issues ranging from economic development, combating the opioid epidemic and improving transportation infrastructure.  After extoling strides made to lower unemployment, provide predictable energy costs and improve services for children and families, the Governor spoke candidly on his vision for governing in the current political environment.  His theme was one of respect, inclusiveness and bi-partisan cooperation.  Governor Baker, a Republican in a deep blue state, has experienced high approval ratings and favorability since taking office.  He is lauded for working well with the Commonwealth’s super majority Democratic legislature and for finding areas of common ground.  While acknowledging he may not agree with legislators on every issue, the debate will be driven by respect, courtesy and compromise.  This is how the Commonwealth will be governed in his Administration.  These are not always the easiest waters to navigate, but with leaders committed to progress and civility, citizens will be better served.

H-1Bs are in the news right now. So, what are they?

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By: Carlos Iturregui

H-1B work visas may see a major overhaul in the near future. At last week’s news briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that possible executive action on work visas “is part of a larger immigration effort” under consideration by the new Administration.

Proponents see H-1B holders as beneficial to American industry, especially companies in the technology and science sectors. Opponents see the program as a way to displace American workers with lower-paid H-1B visa holders.

H-1Bs are championed by not only by tech/engineering industry but also academic and medical communities, all of which are vital to the Massachusetts economy. This category of visas applies only to highly skilled workers with degrees. Another category of visas – the H-2B – applies to seasonal non-agriculture workers (such as hospitality).

Industry should keep a watchful eye for changes to either visa type.

Historically, increasing H-1B visas has been a bipartisan issue. H-1Bs are subject to a Congressionally-mandated annual quota cap. Raising the annual cap and increasing resources for approving H-1B visas are regularly included in both Republican and Democrat bills.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services received over 236,000 petitions for the 65,000 H-1B FY 2017 quota during the standard five day filing period between April 1st and April 7th, 2016. That was the highest number of petitions that USICS has ever received for H-1B quota cap since its inception. 2016 was the fourth consecutive year that the visa cap was reached in five days

Some general facts about H-1Bs:

  • H-1Bs are capped annually at 65,000 visas (of which 1,400 are reserved for Chile and 5,400 for Singapore – pursuant to Trade Agreements)
  • An additional 20,000 are exempt from the cap providing that the visa applicant has completed master degree in an approved institution or higher grade
  • H-1Bs are valid for three years and renewable/extended for an additional three
  • H-1Bs are the only visa with expedited processing
  • Visa holders are employer sponsored
  • Families of visa holders can come to the US, but they cannot work. Accordingly, most of these visa holders enter the country alone and remain separated from their friends and families
  • In FY 2015 70 percent of H-1Bs went to Indian immigrants with an average age of 25-34 years old and a median salary $70,000s/annual

Q/A with Jimmy O’Brien, President of the Boston Carmen’s Union

carmens-union-local-589In December 2016, the Carmen’s Union Local 589 and the MBTA came to agreement on an unprecedented contract that protects the jobs of the 4,100 Carmen’s members, while identifying essential cost savings for the MBTA. The agreement came after months of public disagreements prompted by the MBTA’s plans to begin privatizing the work of the Carmen’s Union and fellow MBTA unions.  Both Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s State of the City and Governor Charlie Baker’s State of the Commonwealth applauded the Carmen’s Union Local 589 and the MBTA for coming together to reach an agreement.

A lot has been made of the recent deal struck between the Carmen’s Union and the MBTA. You still had two years left on its contract, why did you open it to negotiations?

The MBTA needed to identify cost savings, and we wanted to be a part of the solution. With raised fares, riders had done their part and we knew it was our responsibility to do our part, too. We proposed an initial cost savings plan in June 2016, and after months of conversation that led to formal negotiations, we were able to reach an agreement that provides the MBTA with cost savings it needs, while protecting the work of our members– which was our highest priority.

We all know that the MBTA is in need of investment. The buses, subway trains, trolleys, and tracks are in need of repair and replacement but the MBTA can’t make the necessary investments without also identifying cost savings. For us, it was vitally important that we protect the livelihoods of our 4,100 members. Our members take a tremendous amount of pride in their work. Our members go to work each day to help the T’s riders get where they need to go. The knowledge and expertise they bring to the MBTA is unparalleled. We knew that privatization, while devastating for our members, would be equally devastating to the operations of the MBTA.

What do MBTA riders need to know about Local 589?

The Boston Carmen’s Union represents the men and women who drive and maintain the MBTA buses, subway trains, trolleys, and tracks. We are committed to our work, and we come to work every day, committed to putting riders first.

Our workers share riders’ frustration and anger when the system breaks down. The winter of 2015 was terrible for all of us, we try our hardest to keep things moving every day, but we can’t cure infrastructure failures and the malfunctions of a 100-year-old system that suffers from a lack of investment.

There are a lot of misconceptions out there about our members. People should know that the average shift of a Carmen’s Union member is 10-12 hours a day, often while getting paid for 8 hours of work. Whether it is a weekday, weekend or holiday — there is always a member of the Carmen’s Union hard at work.

What’s next for the Carmen’s Union and the MBTA?

This was a great win for both sides, but the real winners are our riders. We hope that with this cost savings, we will see a concerted effort from MBTA leadership to invest in the tracks, the signals, and equipment. It’s what the system needs.

With this contract, we have shown that you can identify cost savings without privatization of jobs, and we hope that is something the MBTA will take into consideration going forward.

I don’t know what else is next, but I hope it isn’t a lot of snow.

About the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589
Founded in 1912, the Boston Carmen’s Union Local 589 is the largest of 28 unions with members employed by the MBTA. Over 4,100 MBTA employees are members of the Carmen’s Union, including: Bus Divers, Train (Subway) and Trolley Operators, Maintenance of Way and Repairmen, Money Room Employees, and Automated Fare Collection (AFC) Technicians, Customer Service Agents (CSA), Dispatchers, and Clerks. Local 589 is part of the Amalgamated Transit Union, comprised of over 197,000 transit workers across the United States and Canada.

MassAccess Backs Legislation to Support Community Access Television

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MassAccess is a nonprofit trade group representing local community media stations throughout Massachusetts. We are the voice of the over 200 community cable access channels here in Massachusetts.

Currently, we are working with the Massachusetts legislature to promote a Bill that would allow viewers greater access to community cable access channels while improving the quality of the stations as well.

‘An Act to Support Community Access Television’, a bill filed by Senator John Keenan as well as Representative Ruth Balser and Representative Antonio Cabral proposes that community cable access channels, also called “PEG channels,” have access to Electronic Programming Guides, allowing viewers to access information about programs airing on PEG channels, as they would for broadcast channels. It would also provide PEG channels with better signal quality, making it comparable to larger local broadcast stations. If passed, the Bill would state that cable companies must allow PEG channels to broadcast in HD format. These changes would have a large and important impact across the state. Local access cable TV provides a wide range of programs and services, keeping citizens connected to local news and government activities as well as local events, athletic games, and public notices. However, their offerings to Massachusetts cities and towns aren’t limited to what can be seen on TV.

Mostly all local access cable centers are private non-profit organizations or municipal departments. As part of their mission, they are providing education, equipment and training for people interested in production or wanting to pursue careers in TV and Media. For example, Boston Neighborhood Network (BNN), provides month long workshops on how to create and edit your own TV program. Norwood Public Access Television (NPAT) has a similar program which allows Norwood High School’s LEAD Students to come to NPTA studios once a month and record their own show. LEAD is a program for students with special needs that provides them with job training and life skills. Their talk show “LEAD Update” provides information on what students are currently doing while also covering local events and stories. MassAccess hosts a statewide program sharing server where centers, individual producers and even Massachusetts state departments can share informative or entertaining programs across the Commonwealth with a simple upload and download process.

The passage of ‘An Act to Support Community Access Television’ is important to providing PEG channels and centers with the support they need to continue serving their communities. MassAccess proudly supports this legislation and we are optimistic that this Bill will provide local cable access channels with the equal footing they require to stay relevant in a time of ever-changing media technology.

Bill Nay

President, MassAccess

Community Relations for Boston’s Building Boom

img_6120By: Chris Tracy

Boston is in the midst of what will be the biggest building boom in the City’s history, bypassing both the infilling of the Back Bay in the late 1800’s and the construction of the Prudential, John Hancock and other high spine buildings in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Large-scale real estate development through the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA)’s Article 80 process is touching not only downtown and the urban core, but every neighborhood in the City of Boston.

Boston’s population is rising exponentially due to a multitude of factors – so-called meds and eds (hospitals and universities) are as strong as ever but there is also a rapidly expanding business community moving to Boston. General Electric is the most high profile example, but there is also New Balance, Converse and Adidas. Biotech companies are moving across the river from Cambridge and Somerville as well – creating a good problem: Where are all these new residents going to live and what does the city need to do to house them?

Enter Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s ambitious goal to create 53,000 new units of housing in the city by the year 2030. Currently, Boston is the third most expensive city to live in the country behind New York and San Francisco. The supply and demand of housing is out of balance; many people want to live here but the existing housing stock is low, which drives up the prices of existing housing.

Mayor Walsh’s Administration and BPDA are aiming to create housing across all income levels to help balance out this supply and demand problem. Low, middle and high income housing is seen as a solution to level off high housing costs and not create situation, like in San Francisco, where people are being priced out. Boston is working to stay in front of these challenges so that there is enough housing to for all future residents that want to make Boston their home.

Sometimes developers and project proponents can find the approval process at the BPDA board and City’s Zoning Board of Appeals or Zoning Commission arduous and frustrating. Additionally, many long term Boston residents have been resistant to the changes presented by new development and to the changes these projects bring to neighborhoods. O’Neill and Associates works with clients to navigate the complex, strenuous process of seeking city approvals. We work closely with clients and stakeholders to establish realistic expectations around projects and manage these expectations while always advocating for smart, tasteful, sensitive and appropriate development. The Article 80 process is community driven. Concessions may be appropriate at times in order to meet opposition halfway, but the goal always remains to get shovels in the ground on suitable, positive projects that benefit the current and future residents of Boston.

To learn more about our community relations services visit our website www.oneillandassoc.com or call us at 617-646-1000.

Welcome Shakeir Gregory

gregory-shakeir-2O’Neill and Associates welcomes Shakeir Gregory as Senior Account Executive in our public relations and communications practice. Shakeir will lead digital advocacy and social media strategies for our clients. In addition, he will provide multi-channel online community management services and will be responsible for shaping the technical and strategic components of digital marketing campaigns. Shakeir will work closely with client teams to develop and implement comprehensive social media campaigns to raise profiles, build awareness on issues, and activate target audiences and further clients’ public relations and advocacy goals.

Most recently, Shakeir was the digital director for Great School Massachusetts where he planned, developed, and executed an all-inclusive social media engagement strategy. Shakeir developed crucial skills as the principal content developer and communicator across all of the organization’s online platforms which we believe will add tremendous value for servicing our clients in the always-on digital era.

Shakeir holds a bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in communications from Northeastern University where he was president of the Northeastern University College Democrats. To learn more about Shakeir visit Our Team page.

Welcome Chris Tracy!

img_6120This month O’Neill and Associates welcomes Chris Tracy to our community relations practice. As Senior Director, Chris will provide real estate development clients with valuable counsel on a variety of issues including community outreach, municipal relations, permitting, zoning, regulatory advocacy, and licensing. He has extensive experience working with communities and developers in the City of Boston and surrounding cities and towns. Chris knows how to identify key community stakeholders while also helping clients streamline the at-times arduous approval process by cutting through red tape and bureaucracy

Chris previously served as a senior project manager for the Boston Planning and Development Authority (BPDA), formerly known as the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), where he managed internal and external vetting processes for large-scale real estate commercial and residential development project throughout the City of Boston. His experience working across multi-agency issues concerning proposed developments and his collaboration with agencies to alleviate project concerns position him as an expert for our community relations and government affairs practice.

Chris earned his master’s in public administration from Northeastern University and a Bachelor of Arts in history from Boston College. To learn more about Chris visit Our Team page.