Massachusetts Senate Passes $49.78 Billion Budget

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In full transparency, the following press release was submitted to SOURCE media from the Senate President’s office.

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BOSTON – The Massachusetts State Senate on Thursday, May 26, 2022, passed a $49.78 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23).

Advanced with unanimous support, the budget makes significant, critical and targeted investments in the areas of education, health care, housing and community supports to meet the on-the-ground challenges brought on by the global pandemic and ongoing financial uncertainty.

“The residents of Massachusetts are at the center of our work and their voice, advocacy and contributions are interwoven throughout our Fiscal 2023 budget,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I take great pride in advancing a budget that contains meaningful investments in early education and childcare, K-12 schools, public higher education, mental health and substance use disorder treatment as well as a record level of assistance for low-income residents. At a time when reproductive and gender equity rights are under attack across the country, I am also grateful that the Senate budget adopts new, critically needed measures to protect our providers and health care centers. I want to thank Chair Rodrigues, Vice Chair Friedman and Assistant Vice Chair Lewis, as well as their staffs, the members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, all of my Senate colleagues who contributed ideas and energy as this budget came together and every advocate and member of the public who made sure we knew what was important to them.”

Now that the Senate and Massachusetts House of Representatives has passed their respective budget proposals, both branches will now work together, form a conference committee and reconcile differences.

“Today, the members of the Senate have spoken and moved forward together to pass a Fiscal Year 2023 budget that strengthens our state’s economic foundation, upholds the fundamental rights of our people and continues our efforts to build a more inclusive Commonwealth,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Under the leadership of Senate President Spilka, the Senate has taken meaningful steps this week to support our long-term economic health, maintain fiscal responsibility, and make targeted investments in education, local aid, health care, housing, workforce development, and many other important areas, ensuring we meet the everyday needs of our communities. Thank you to the Senate President for her guidance, Vice Chair Cindy Friedman, Assistant Vice Chair Senator Jason Lewis, Ranking Minority Member Senator Patrick O’Connor and Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr for their impactful contributions, and to my colleagues in the Senate, whose advocacy throughout the week contributed to a respectful and civil discussion on priorities important to them, which helped shape the overall direction of this budget.”

“The budget that passed the Senate today continues our commitment to funding the urgent needs of our residents, including increased funding for housing, education, child care, and assistance for families,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget addresses the mental health crisis in Massachusetts by creating the Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Intervention Trust Fund, which will fund crisis supports and a new behavioral health crisis hotline. And while we know there is more need and more to do, this budget makes significant progress in these areas. I am also incredibly proud that Amendment #388, which I filed, was adopted. This amendment will enhance protections for residents, visitors and providers engaged in lawful reproductive and gender-affirming health care in the Commonwealth.”

“I’m excited that this budget will help move the Commonwealth forward and continue a strong and equitable recovery from the pandemic,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Chair of the Joint Committee on Education and Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “I’m particularly pleased that we are continuing to fully fund the Student Opportunity Act as well as beginning to implement the recommendations of the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission in order to expand access to high quality, affordable early education and care. Thank you to President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for your leadership and to all my Senate colleagues for helping craft such a strong budget for the residents of the Commonwealth.”

The Senate’s FY23 budget includes a total of $49.78 billion in spending with $854.4 million deposited into the state’s rainy-day fund, bringing that account’s total to $6.74 billion. Structured upon a consensus revenue estimate of 2.7 per cent growth, the budget also funds Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) at $1.231 billion.

Other budget highlights are detailed below.

Education

Drawing on its belief that the state’s recovery is made stronger by a commitment to invest in early education and care, the Senate’s budget makes a $1.13 billion investment into this sector of the care economy, including $300 million in new resources to begin implementation of recommendations made by the Early Education and Care Economy Review Commission. These investments will help to stabilize providers, support the early educator workforce, and provide access to affordable care for children and families. Funding includes:

  • $250 million for the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants, stabilizing the early education and care sector by supporting critical operational and workforce needs
  • $25 million for a new infrastructure and policy reform reserve to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape
  • $25 million for the center-based childcare rate reserve for reimbursement rates for subsidized care
  • $16.5 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families
  • $15 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to pre-kindergarten and preschool opportunities in underserved areas
  • $5 million for the Early Childhood Educators Scholarship

In K-12 education, the Senate delivers on its promise to fully fund and implement the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by FY 2027, investing $6 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $495 million over FY 2022, as well as double minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil. This investment ensures the state remains on schedule to fully implement the law by FY2027, provides school districts with resources to provide high quality educational opportunities, and addresses rising costs and administrative challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This budget also confronts head-on the issue of higher education student costs by providing $175.2 million for the scholarship reserve, including an additional $37.5 million for the MassGrant and MassGrant Plus programs. An amendment adopted by the Senate also dedicate $1 million to pilot a digital textbook and materials program at a community college or state university to provide student with the opportunity to access free textbooks online.

The Senate also expands access to inclusive education opportunities for young adults with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and codifying the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment grant program. The budget dedicates $4 million in flexible resources for the public higher education system to implement and support inclusive learning options for this diverse student population.

Other education investments include:

  • $435 million for the special education circuit breaker
  • $243.8 million for charter school reimbursements
  • $82.2 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs, representing an 85% reimbursement rate
  • $10 million for Early College programs and $9 million for the state’s Dual Enrollment initiative, both of which provide high school students with increased opportunities for post-graduate success
  • $5.5 million, after adding $1.5 million through an amendment, for targeted aid to rural schools
  • $1.5 million for the Genocide Education Trust Fund, fulfilling our commitment to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide and support implementation efforts in accordance with Chapter 98 of the Acts of 2021, An Act Concerning Genocide Education, passed by the Legislature in 2021

Health, Mental Health & Family Care

For too many—especially children—the post-pandemic world continues to be wrought with uncertainty. To address these concerns, the Senate’s budget focuses on funding a range of services, including social emotional learning (SEL) support for students, domestic violence prevention, substance use disorder treatment, and strengthening our regional boards of health. The budget also supports the expansion of Family Resource Centers (FRCS), which offer resources to families seeking health, safety, educational, and employment services.

The Massachusetts State Senate’s FY23 budget also sends a strong message that reproductive health and gender affirming health will be protected, despite growing legal uncertainty across the United States. Investments include $2 million for grants for improvements in reproductive health access, infrastructure, and safety. An amendment to the budget also codifies new protections for receiving and providing reproductive and gender-affirming health care in Massachusetts in response to laws in other states allowing their residents to bring legal action against individuals for traveling out-of-state to receive services and against workers who provide care.

The Senate budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.56 billion, providing more than 2.1 million people with access to affordable and accessible health care services. Other health investments include:

  • $514.6 million for Department of Mental Health adult support services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
  • $210.3 million for a complete range of substance use disorder treatment and intervention services to support these individuals and their families
  • $112.5 million for children’s mental health services
  • $56 million for domestic violence prevention services
  • $40.4 million for Early Intervention services, ensuring supports remain accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities
  • $28.3 million for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families
  • $20 million to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives
  • $18.5 million, increased during the amendment process, to expand to all correctional facilities the existing pilot program for the delivery of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder
  • $18 million for family and adolescent health, including $7.8 million for comprehensive family planning services and $6.7 million to enhance federal Title X family planning funding

  • $15 million for grants to support local and regional boards of health, continuing our efforts to build upon the successful State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) Program
  • $15 million for emergency department diversion initiatives for children, adolescents, and adults
  • $8.2 million to support student behavioral health services at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges
  • $6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, and $1 million to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students
  • $4.4 million for the Office of the Child Advocate
  • $3.5 million for the Massachusetts Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma
  • $3 million for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused
  • $1 million, increased through the amendment process, for an expansion of the Hey Sam text-based mental health support line, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention communications initiative for youth and young adults

The Senate also adopted an amendment that prevents correctional facilities from charging fees to incarcerated persons or their loved ones for prison phone calls, and it also sets a new requirement that commissary items in correctional facilities shall not be sold at more than 3 per cent over the purchase cost. Both changes ensure that our correctional facilities do not unjustly profit off the basic needs of incarcerated persons.

In addition, the Senate adopted an amendment to address the failures that led to the tragic death of Harmony Montgomery, who was released from state custody in 2019 when she was five years old, but then went missing for two years without being reported. To ensure that a tragedy like this will not happen again, this budget establishes a Harmony Montgomery Commission to study, examine and make recommendations regarding the welfare and best interest considerations of children in care and protection cases and petition to dispense with consent cases.

Expanding & Protecting Opportunities

The Senate remains committed to continuing an equitable recovery, expanding opportunity, and supporting the state’s long-term economic health. To that end, the budget includes a record investment in the annual child’s clothing allowance, providing $400 per child for eligible families to buy clothes for the upcoming school year. The budget also includes a 10 per cent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefit levels compared to June 2022 to help families move out of deep poverty.

With skilled workers in high demand and job openings plentiful, the Senate’s budget invests more than $100 million to bolster job training programs, help connect unemployed and under-employed people with higher paying jobs and support career services that help students gain access and skills to apply for future jobs. Economic opportunity investments include:

  • $7.5 million for community foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations
  • $5 million for the Secure Jobs Connect Program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals
  • $4.8 million for the Innovation Pathways program to continue to connect students to trainings and post-secondary opportunities in the industry sector with a focus on STEM fields
  • $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million to continue partnerships with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses
  • $500,000, through an amendment, for the Economic Empowerment Trust Fund to expand the state’s Baby Steps college savings program

An amendment passed by the Senate would also establish a veteran equality review board to ensure that veterans dishonorably discharged under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” receive state-based veterans’ benefits. Another adopted amendment directs the state to develop one common application portal through which residents can simultaneously apply for multiple forms of state-administered needs-based benefits and services.

Housing

Based on the Senate’s understanding of the strong link housing security has to positive health and economic outcomes, the Senate FY23 budget invests over $900 million in increased funding for housing stability and homelessness assistance to work towards keeping people in their homes and helping individuals and families find permanent housing solutions.

The budget prioritizes relief for families and individuals who continue to face challenges brought on by both the pandemic and financial insecurity, including $213.2 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters and $210 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), including $60 million carried over from the March supplemental budget. The budget also upholds the emergency-level maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive at $10,000. Eligible households facing a housing crisis would also be given access to apply for RAFT and HomeBASE. The budget, through adoption of an amendment, also requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to study and report on the execution of no-fault evictions between 2019 and 2022.  Other housing investments include:

  • $175 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), including $20.7 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2022; the budget also recommends structural program changes that, starting January 1, 2023, will allow households to pay no more than 30% of their income for rent to receive rental vouchers for up to 110% of fair market value 
  • $92 million for assistance to local housing authorities
  • $83.3 million for assistance for homeless individuals
  • $56.9 million for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs, bolstering assistance under this program to two years with a per household maximum benefit of $20,000
  • $19.3 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance to people with disabilities, including $5.6 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2022 and $2.5 million for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
  • $5 million for sponsored-based supportive permanent housing
  • $3.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including $250,000 for homeless LGBTQ+ youth

Community Support

The Committee’s budget reflects the Senate’s unwavering support for cities and towns and provides a significant amount of local and regional aid to ensure communities can provide essential services to the public while addressing local impacts caused by the pandemic. This includes $1.231 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $63 million over FY 2022, to support additional resources for cities and towns. In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $45 million, an increase of $10 million over FY 2022. PILOT funding is a vital source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during recovery from the pandemic. Other local investments include:

  • $96.5 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation systems, including $2.5 million for the implementation of pilot programs for fare innovation and reduction across the state
  • $40.8 million for libraries, including $14.5 million for regional library local aid, $16 million for municipal libraries and $4.7 million for technology and automated resource networks
  • $22.3 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives
  • $3 million for Non-Profit Security Grants, after an increase of $1.5 million through the amendment process, to cover vital security enhancements to houses of worship, community centers, and other institutions at heightened risk of violence
  • $1 million for the New American Voter Grant Program to provide accessible election materials to municipalities with significant non-English speaking populations and promote public awareness about voting

The Senate also adopted an amendment based on recommendations of the PFAS Interagency Task Force, which would provide $250,000 for the continued implementation of the AFFF Take-Back Program that funds the collection and proper disposal of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) stored by municipal fire departments and other public safety partners in Massachusetts.

Another amendment passed in the budget would also extend COVID-19 state-of-emergency provisions related to remote public meetings, flexible town meetings, remote notaries, remote corporate meeting and remote mortgage video conferencing.

The Senate’s FY23 Budget is available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.

editor

email: editor@FraminghamSource.com call or text at 508-315-7176


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