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Senate Seeks Stronger Oversight In Lawrence Financial Recovery

The Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday approved a measure that would allow the city of Lawrence to borrow up to $35 million to avoid bankruptcy, nearly a week after House lawmakers approved their version of the proposal.

While both bills would authorize Lawrence to go to bond agencies for loans to address a $25 million budget shortfall, state senators are taking a tougher line on the bailout plan.

The House proposal appoints a full-time "overseer" to monitor Lawrence's finances and if the city cannot get its financial house in order by January 2011, a control board would be put in place. Senate Democrats are seeking more restrictions on the city's finances via the overseer.

Democratic Ways and Means Committee Chairman Steven Panagiotakos, of Lowell, voiced support for a harder line stance while speaking to WBUR on Monday.

"This properly protects both the taxpayers of the state from any future issue with Lawrence coming back to us looking for money," Panagiotakos said, "but also protects the property taxpayers in the City of Lawrence."

The state's four Republican senators are also pushing an amendment that calls for a finance control board to be put in place immediately. A similar amendment, put forth by House Republicans, was not included in that version of the bill.

Even without the Republican amendment, Panagiotakos says the Senate's bailout plan has more restrictions than the one passed by the House.

"We don't want to set the city of Lawrence up for failure," he said. "We're trying to give them the opportunity to work this out, however we do need proper oversight on this."

Similar finance control boards have been put in place in other municipalities, including Springfield, which had its expenditures managed by a board from 2004 until June 2009.

This program aired on March 9, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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