Legislature Passes Balanced Budget; Targets Local Aid, Education and Opioid Epidemic

Legislature Passes Balanced Budget; Targets Local Aid, Education and Opioid Epidemic

(BOSTON) – Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the Legislature on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, to enact a $41.88 billion Massachusetts state budget for FY19.

The budget features no new taxes or fees and directs a $367 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund to ensure the Commonwealth’s fiscal health and to protect Massachusetts’ future. The budget also prioritizes our cities and towns, education and those most in need of help.

In recognition of the state’s strong support for education, the Legislature approved an unprecedented $4.9 billion in Chapter 70 education funding, which represents an increase of 3.4 percent over the previous fiscal year and increases funding for teacher health care costs by $39 million. Education funding also features $319.4 million to fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker, $90 million for Charter School Reimbursement, $68.9 million for Regional School Transportation and $5 million to fund the Preschool Partnership Initiative.

The budget reflects the Legislature’s commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of children and families by lifting the cap on benefits for children of low income families. This change takes effect in January 2019. The budget also provides $2.5 million for continued support for early childhood mental health consultation services and $20 million to support high-quality Early Education and Care (EEC) programs. The budget also provides $10 million to create an EEC workforce development initiative to tie professional development and higher education opportunities more closely to our community colleges.

As part of an ongoing effort to ensure access to safe and affordable housing for the most vulnerable Massachusetts residents, the budget provides $100 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), $32 million for the HomeBASE program, $20 million for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program and establishes a $5 million rapid homeless rehousing program.

To address the ongoing opioid epidemic, the budget includes $142 million for the Bureau of Substance Addition Services to create five recovery centers in Massachusetts. The budget features $5 million to support community-based treatment program, $4.9 million for step-down recovery services and $1 million to provide increased access to Narcan to first responders.

In an effort to preserve outdoor spaces and protect our natural environment, the budget includes $900,000 for the maintenance, operational and infrastructure needs of the metropolitan beaches, including Nantasket Beach Reservation in Hull.

“The budget we enacted supports our local municipalities, and invests in people and services,” said Representative Meschino. “I am proud to see the Legislature put together a budget that prioritizes our constituents, and is fiscally sound.”

In addition the budget includes the following provisions highlighted below.

  • With the goal of creating an accessible economy to all workers, the creation of a pilot program to promote employment in state contracts with persons with disabilities.
  • Requiring the Administration to acknowledge and sometimes waive the unique tax burden on small businesses with high-turnover workforces that are the hardest hit by the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC) Supplement assessment.
  • Creates an Office of Health Equity to address social determinants of health and environmental justice to improve health outcomes among people of color.
  • Expands access to non-profits working with the state to discounted Naloxone, helping to make it more available at a lower cost.
  • Establishes of a permanent Tax Expenditure Unit in Department of Revenue that would examine the usefulness of every tax credit on an ongoing basis – to ensure our tax payers are receiving worthwhile returns on their investments.

For the 3rd Plymouth District, the budget provides funding for:

  • An Aquatic Weed Harvester for Cohasset
  • Animal Control in Cohasset and Hull
  • Structural repairs of the Whitney Wharf in Hingham
  • A behavior health program through Manet Community Health Center in Hull
  • Main street economic development and storefront improvements in Hull
  • Scituate Community Christmas, Inc.
  • A mobile de-watering pump for Scituate Fire Department

The budget also provides increased Chapter 70 funding and Unrestricted General Government Aid for Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, and Scituate. In addition, it provides increased state aid for public libraries, and increased funding for Mass Cultural Council.

This iteration of the budget is now with the Governor for his consideration.