By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell – May, 2016
As a member of the Committee on Ways and Means, I can tell you that this was a difficult budget because of the large projected deficits resulting from increasing health care costs. Health care spending consumes an unsustainable 40% of our budget.
This Budget deposits additional funds in our “Rainy day fund”, and it accelerates the pace of reducing our pension liabilities. Wall Street is watching all state budgets as they set borrowing rates. This budget will result in our credit rating remaining the highest in the history of the Commonwealth. This is critical if we want to borrow at a reasonable rate to in order to fix our roads and bridges, invest in public transportation, and grow our economy.
I filed a number of amendments that were supported by my colleagues and adopted that affect statewide policies and programs that are critical to residents of the Merrimack Valley. Many of these programs were cut during the Great Recession.
One is the Alternative Housing Voucher Program, a statewide program that provides housing vouchers to individuals with disabilities. It helps individuals in the disability community to avoid costly institutional care, saves money, and gives them the freedom to live within the community with dignity and independence.
I joined forces with Assistant Majority Leader Paul Donato (D- Medford) to restore full funding to the Meals on Wheels Program. This funding for basic nutrition is a lifeline for many seniors living on fixed incomes in the Merrimack Valley.
My colleagues joined me in support of my amendment to restore funding to The Student Awareness Fire Education (SAFE) Program that has been in existence since 1996. The program helps educate young people about the importance of fire safety and the dangers of tobacco use.
As a House, we restored funding to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.
The testimony I heard in hearings of the Ways and Means Committee clearly demonstrates the very high rate of return our state and the Merrimack Valley receives by investing in Tourism.
Funding for the Shannon anti-gang program was restored in the House Budget. The program, which was developed in the 1990s, funds efforts to prevent youth violence through the work of non-profits, youth mentoring, and community programs. This, along with the restoration of community policing in the House budget is critical in our battle against opioid addiction.
Once again we made local aid a priority providing over $159 million and allocating more than the Governor proposed in his budget.
Our Budget also continues the historically high level of support to attack the opioid crisis head on with additional funding for drug diversion, treatment beds, and support case management services. This brings our targeted investment to attack this crisis to a level 65% higher than in FY2012.
As the Vice Chair of Public Safety I am very pleased that substantial funding was also allocated to the Attorney General in this budget to target narcotics trafficking.
Finally, after hearing from our library directors statewide, including those who testified at the Ways and Means hearing I hosted in Methuen, we allocated $9.5million in local aid for libraries, the first modest increase in nearly decade.
The Senate will produce their budget soon and we will finalize the process with a conference committee to resolve differences. The budget will then be sent to the Governor for his line-item signature or veto.
To obtain more information on the many aspects of the House budget, please visit my web site at: www.statereplindacampbell.com.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents Methuen and Haverhill and serves as the Vice Chair of Public Safety and on the Committees on Ways and Means, Economic Development, and State Administration.