As debates shape up over this year’s state budget, area Sen. Mike Barrett is targeting three perpetually underfunded areas for improvement: Increasing salaries of direct care staff who work with the physically and intellectually disabled; climate change and toxic chemical reductions; and support for local courts.
“I’m focusing on areas that have been walloped,” Barrett said in a statement. “The increases I’m proposing would not restore funding to old levels, but they would strike a better balance.”
Of the eight line items Barrett has singled out, one benefits direct care providers -- people who work with the disabled. Salaries for direct care staff hover in the mid-$20,000 range. Barrett, who was recently appointed Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, also wants to ensure that teenage parents are not without assistance for themselves or their child.
On the environment, Barrett supports the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI), located at UMass Lowell. TURI helps businesses, such as dry cleaners, completely stop using a cancer-causing chemical. He also believes that hazardous waste sites need to be monitored thoroughly and our cleanup capabilities improved, which could prevent noxious chemicals from harming those who live or work near a site.
Additionally, Barrett is recommending that trial courts hire additional staff. The number of workers, such as clerks, has decreased over the last several years, leading to longer lines and delayed hearings for everything from divorce cases to child custody disputes.