The Budget passed by the House of Representatives for Fiscal Year 2016 closes a budget gap without tax increases, new fees, and without taking additional money from our “rainy day fund” as we needed to do during the recession and the years following, in order to preserve a social safety net for those who are disabled or were unable to gain employment.
Our working with the Governor on this budget allowed the House to come in underneath his budget proposal. Also very helpful to our balancing efforts was the approximate 105 million dollars in first-time slot revenue that greatly assisted us in providing modest funding for additional projects and programs in cities and towns, and also an all time high appropriation for education.
Pension Liabilities: Once again, reducing pension liabilities was front and center, which allowed us to maintain our recently approved high bond rating, the highest in our history.
Increases for Substance Abuse Prevention and Mental Health Treatment:
The opiate crisis continues to escalate. Part of this budget includes more than $10 million in new funding for programs focused on substance abuse prevention and treatment including 3.6 million for transitional support beds. An additional 13 million dollars was appropriated to expand community placement for those in need of mental health care to free up hospital beds for inpatient mental illness.
Very important for the Merrimack Valley is a provision that will ensure that pharmacies in high risk areas like the Merrimack Valley are readily stocked with the opiate overdose-reversing drug: Narcan (Naloxone) along with a measure I sponsored that requires the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to investigate potential savings that Commonwealth Communities might achieve by buying our Narcan in bulk.
METHUEN AND HAVERHILL:
Thanks to the support of Speaker DeLeo and Chairman Brian Dempsey from Haverhill, (Chair of House Ways and Means Committee and the primary architect of the budget) this budget included important funding for local priorities such as funding for debt services associated with the Merrimack Valley Hospital which freed up money in Haverhill for critical city services; support for Nicholson Stadium in Methuen; development of the Methuen Rail Trail; support monies for Methuen’s Arlington Neighborhood; and support for the Career Resources Corporation in Haverhill which has just opened a new branch office that enables them to provide more focus on providing career opportunities including employment assistance to our local Veterans.
Windshield Wiper Law Changes: I am very pleased that we changed the highly publicized “windshield-wiper law,” which assessed penalties on drivers who failed to turn on their lights in storms. I, and many of my colleagues believe the penalties for violation were onerous and sponsored an adopted amendment that would bar insurance companies from assessing insurance surcharges if drivers failed to turn on their lights.
The entire House budget is available on the website: malegislature.gov. I also have an expanded description of the budget on my website: HERE
Rep. Campbell serves as the Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee and on the Committee on Ways and Means and is the Dean of the Methuen Delegation.