The Massachusetts House of Representatives last week passed a $40.4 billion FY18 budget which makes key investments in a wide range of areas including local aid, early education, substance addiction initiatives, homelessness programs, job training, economic development, and funding to help individuals with developmental disabilities.
Recognizing that municipalities have unique and diverse needs, the House continues to fund local aid at historic levels. This budget increases Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by $40 million and local education aid (Chapter 70) by $106 million. The increase to Chapter 70 guarantees that every school district will receive a minimum of $30 per pupil in FY18. The budget also begins to implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations by making adjustments to more accurately reflect employee health benefits through a $31 million investment. It also adds $4 million to the special education circuit breaker and increases our investment in regional school transportation by $1 million.
“This budget extends the House’s legacy of balancing fiscal responsibility with investments in inventive programs, a strategy that has resulted in Massachusetts becoming a national leader,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I am particularly proud of the work we have done on early education and care, and I believe that our efforts will have a lasting impact on the lives of countless families. I want to offer my sincere thanks to Chairman Dempsey and the members of the House Ways & Means Committee for their hard work and foresight.”
The Lynn delegation including Representative Lori Ehrlich, Representative Donald Wong, Representative Brendan Crighton and Representative Dan Cahill worked together to secure funding for a number of important local programs including:
– Algae Removal from Lynn Beach
– Red Rock Park Maintenance
– Afterschool STEM Programs
– Shannon Grants for Youth Violence Prevention Programs
– Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services for Lynn Police Behavioral Health Unit
– Safety and Prevention Equipment for the Lynn Fire Department
– Arts and Cultural Funding
“We were pleased to have the support of Speaker Robert DeLeo and House Ways & Means Chairman Brian Dempsey in securing critical funding for public safety, arts and culture, economic development, and our local environment in the City of Lynn”, said Rep. Dan Cahill.
“Our budget reflects a strong commitment to our cities and towns by funding local aid and education at historic levels,” said Representative Brendan Crighton. “These along with funds for key local programs will go a long way to improving our neighborhoods, schools, economy, and quality of life throughout our community.”
“I am glad to see that there were some amendments passed through the House,” said Representative Donald Wong. “As we all know, we are in a deficit, and no one wants more taxes, but we are hopeful that we will be generating more revenue to do more for our cities and towns.”
“This funding is crucial to combatting the algae, a long-standing problem for residents and visitors to the beach because of the annual buildup and the noxious odor it releases,” said Representative Ehrlich. “Additionally, the Earned Income Tax Credit Amendment, which mirrors language from a bill filed by myself and Marjorie Decker (D-Cambridge), clarifies that non-residents of Massachusetts cannot claim the tax credit and is estimated to save taxpayers approximately $8-10 million.”
This budget takes comprehensive action to promote sustained economic health in Massachusetts as we face uncertainty on the national level. For the fourth year in a row, the House budget reduces Massachusetts’ reliance on one-time revenue. It includes a $100 million deposit to the stabilization fund which will result in projected balance of more than $1.4 billion and help preserve the state’s AA+ bond rating, the highest in the Commonwealth’s history.
The FY18 budget makes unprecedented investments to improve Massachusetts’ early education and care system, with a focus on supporting the EEC workforce and providing access to high-quality learning opportunities to ensure children are better prepared for academic success. The House also builds on its notable commitment to behavioral health by doubling funding for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation grant to help early detection and prevention efforts.
In 2014, Massachusetts passed a nationally-heralded gun safety law which includes the Safe and Supportive Schools initiative. This budget bolsters continued efforts by directing the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission to establish an infrastructure to help schools leverage and coordinate community based health, youth development and social services resources that enable students to achieve well-being and academic success.
Since FY12, the Legislature has increased funding for substance addiction services to unprecedented levels and passed two landmark bills to help address this public health epidemic. This year’s budget makes notable investments related to behavioral health and addiction, including almost $132 million for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS). The budget also includes an increase of $4.75 million to the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to fund several cross-agency initiatives including $2 million in new money for the expansion of the Crisis Intervention Training Team.
The budget also creates a tax credit for businesses that hire veterans. Eligible businesses would receive $2,000 per year for the first two years of a veteran’s employment. This provision enhances the Commonwealth’s reputation as a national leader in providing benefits to military personnel, veterans and their families.
The budget will now go to the Senate for its consideration.