House Passes Balanced Budget with Targeted Investments in Education, Housing, Environment
BOSTON – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives this week to pass its budget for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. Funded at $42.7 billion, the House budget makes major investments in education, housing, substance use disorder services, health care, and other areas while projecting a more than $200 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund – bringing the fund’s balance to more than $2.5 billion to safeguard the future of vital programs and services.
“This fiscally responsible budget balances the needs of communities, families, and individuals across the Commonwealth with smart investments that boost local aid, support our healthcare system, strengthen education, and protect the environment,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “I am proud of the work we have done to further our ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis and invest in high-quality early education and care. I believe these investments will have a lasting positive effect on the lives of Massachusetts residents for years to come. I want to thank Chair Michlewitz for his diligence and hard work, and my colleagues in the House who were instrumental to this process.”
“This budget represents yet another year of meaningful investments to support the Commonwealth’s residents,” said Representative Meschino. “I was proud to advocate for the line items my constituents cared about most.”
Representative Meschino was able to secure funding for several key priorities for the 3rd Plymouth District, including full funding for state aid for public libraries and the Division of Ecological Restoration. She also secured $30,000 for municipal safety in Hingham, and $20,000 for the summer trolley in Hull.
The House furthered its commitment to cities and towns in the budget, by increasing Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by nearly $30 million and providing $5.1 billion in Chapter 70 education funding as part of a $236 million increase for investments in schools over Fiscal Year 2019. In addition, the budget includes a $16.5 million reserve for low-income students while the Joint Committee on Education continues its work on this issue. It also addresses the need for integrated student health and wellness supports, providing $2 million to establish the Supporting Health Alliances Reinforcing Education (SHARE) grant program to address non-academic barriers to school success. The budget also expands the role of the Office of the Child Advocate to oversee integrated coordination of education and health programming. Additional education allocations include:
- $328 million for Circuit Breaker Special Education reimbursement;
- $113 million for Charter School Reimbursement; and
- $73.8 million for Regional School Transportation reimbursement.
The House budget continues its commitment to ensuring children have access to high-quality early education and care (EEC). The budget invests in those who work with children by increasing rates for early education providers by $20 million and supporting continuing education opportunities with community colleges. The House budget also includes additional investments into Head Start grants and quality improvement measures in core EEC programming.
The House budget represents some of the biggest increases seen in a generation when it comes to housing and homelessness funding. Access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing is essential and provides the foundation from which families and individuals can lead successful lives. This year, the House continues these efforts by providing:
- $110 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP);
- $72 million for Public Housing Subsidies;
- $7.2 million for Alternative Housing Voucher Program; and
- $53.4 million for Homeless individual shelters.
The budget continues the Legislature’s commitment to fight the opioid epidemic – a public health crisis that has touched nearly every household across the Commonwealth. To help those in need, the House budget gives all EMS and ambulance companies access to discounted naloxone, making it more available for use in the field. In addition, the budget includes:
- $143.9 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, which will help create five new recovery centers across Massachusetts;
- $49.4 million for the Substance Use Disorder Trust Fund; and
- $1.5 million increases for Massachusetts Access to Recovery Services.
The House budget includes funding for public safety and the judiciary, including investments to implement last session’s criminal justice reform law. The budget includes:
- $8.8 million for a new community-based re-entry program;
- $24 million for civil legal aid to provide representation for low-income individuals; and
- $10 million for Shannon Grants, a competitive grant program to individual municipalities to address heightened levels of gang violence.
The House calls for over $282 million in spending for environmental programs. These funding levels will ensure that state keeps up with the needs of its parks and environmental protections programs. These investments include:
- $46 million for State Parks and Recreation;
- $61 million for the Department of Environmental Protection; and
- $1.5 million for Watershed Protection.
In the area of labor and economic development, the House budget invests in programs that provide job opportunities for residents to participate in the Commonwealth’s thriving economy. These investments include:
- $ 38.1 million for Adult Basic Education Services;
- $500,000 to establish a specialized prevailing wage and construction investigatory and enforcement unit within the Attorney General’s office;
- $14.5 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth; and
- $4.8 million for the STEM Starter Academy, to support underperforming students at community colleges interested in pursuing STEM subjects.
MassHealth is the single largest investment that the Commonwealth makes in its most vulnerable residents. This program provides health insurance for the frailest amongst us: the homeless, the recovering, mothers with children, and the working poor. In addition to funding this key safety net program, the budget also ensures funding for crucial health and human services agencies and providers including:
- $109.8 million to continue reforms that protect children at the Department of Children and Families;
- $35 million increase in the supplemental rates for nursing homes across the Commonwealth and an emergency task force aimed at helping to bring stability to the industry;
- $17.9 million towards the Councils on Aging to help senior citizens; and
- Fully funds the Lift the Cap on Kids initiative that removes barriers that prevent families from receiving Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits for certain children.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the budget will be increasing the Commonwealth’s contribution into the Community Preservation Act, which will ensure that over $36 million more will be distributed to projects all across the Commonwealth and will help raise the state’s match up to 30 percent for investments in open space, affordable housing and historic preservation.
The budget will now go to the Senate.