By: Senator Katy Ives – August, 2018
The Massachusetts Legislature recently passed a $41.88 billion state budget for FY19 and directs a $367 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund, to ensure our state’s fiscal health and protect Massachusetts’ future. It also prioritizes our cities and towns, education, and those most in need of help and features no new taxes or fees.
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. A priority of mine, 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 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.
The budget sets aside funds to establish monitoring for hiring, promotion, and preferential treatment occurring within the State Police.
And in addition:
• Provides clear statutory authority to Juvenile Courts to protect unaccompanied immigrant youth aged 19 and 20 from deportation, continuing our long-standing value of protecting the children in our communities
• Creates an annual internal audit and the requirement of annual accreditation.
• Establishes a commission to look at funding for Sheriff departments, with an eye towards encouraging the use of best practices and reigning in rising costs, with a particular emphasis on recidivism reduction.
• Introduces a pilot program to promote employment in state contracts with persons with disabilities to expand access to participation in the economy.
• Requires 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 tackle 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 state discounted Naloxone, helping to make it more available at a lower cost as we continue to combat the opioid crisis.
• Establishes 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.
Also, in the budget were important local priorities that I filed and secured, totaling $800,000:
• $10,000 for uniforms at the Haverhill Fire Department
• $59,500 for the installation of a fence at the Tenney School playground in the City of Methuen, an intercom system at the Tenney School in the City of Methuen, a security checkpoint at the main entrance of the High School in the City of Methuen and 4 cameras at each of the elementary and middle schools in the City of Methuen
• $10,500 for the Mental Health Consortium through the Guidance Department at the Methuen public Schools in the City of Methuen
• $30,000 for the Pettengill House, Inc. in the Towns of Salisbury and Amesbury
• $15,000 for ADA compliant improvements to the Stevens Field Playground in the Town of Merrimac.
• $250,000 to the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center for programs to increase access to health care for the medically underserved in the City of Haverhill for programs to develop a full-service community health center in Haverhill with collaborative, graduate-degree level programs to train advanced practice nurses by Regis College.
• $300,000 to the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center, Inc., in the City of Haverhill
• $100,000 for the Early College Program administered by Northern Essex Community College
• $25,000 for signage and wayfinding for the economic development and revitalization in the City of Amesbury
Senator O’Connor Ives can be reached at KATHLEEN.OCONNORIVES@MASENATE.GOV