Following an extensive process that starts with hearings in January, the Fiscal Year 2018 House budget was finalized in the last week in April. The Senate will soon complete their budget and the two will be reconciled by 1 July. The 40.4 billion dollar House budget DID NOT include any new taxes or fees. It set aside additional funds to reduce pension liabilities and increase the size of the “rainy day” fund.
Core challenges for this budgeting cycle have been persistent revenue shortfalls and a possible 1 billion dollar decrease in federal money for Massachusetts health care in the coming year
While the Massachusetts economy is performing very well by national standards and enjoys an unemployment rate significantly below the national average, revenue growth for Massachusetts has been weaker than predicted.
This is because of the relatively slow wage growth nationally and because more sales are being made untaxed online. Also, due to the fact that many investors, business owners and self-employed persons who do not have automatic quarterly payments withdrawn from their pay are waiting to see if the lower tax rates President Trump proposed will materialize.
While this makes perfect sense from an individual perspective, it wrecks havoc upon our State’s budget.
While we will need to go back to the drawing board, this budget will likely retain some important House initiatives. I strongly supported spending in areas such as public health, substance abuse treatment and prevention, veterans programs, early education and care, as well as programs that protect individuals with developmental disabilities.
I was particularly proud of the action taken by the House in our budget to create a $2,000 tax credit for businesses that hire Veterans for each of the first two years that a Veteran is employed. I know firsthand that while many Veterans bring a number of skills to our economy it can be difficult for most to find employment after their service to our country.
Additionally, the House budget made a number of substantive new investments in early education including $20 million for early educator salaries, $2.5 million for early child mental health and $4 million for quality improvement for early education. Research increasingly demonstrates how important quality early education is not only for a child’s academic success but also for reducing the rate at which those children later commit crimes.
One of the few core programs that I personally worked on to secure additional funding is Meals on Wheels. This program keeps elders from going hungry. Then there’s the Alternative Housing Voucher program that helps people with disabilities get apartments and stay out of costly institutionalized care. Lastly, I successfully secured funding for the SAFE program that educates young people about fire safety and the dangers to health posed by smoking.
In addition to these statewide issues, the House budget also includes funding for local priorities that I worked to secure in the Budget including: funding for the development of Methuen’s downtown, The Methuen Police Department’s Community Addiction Resource Engagement Services (CARES) program, Methuen High School Mental Health Services, Methuen High School’s Boating Program, the Cogswell School Project in Haverhill, and the Bradford Rail Trail.
My local priorities reflect the need I see for additional economic development and jobs in the Merrimack Valley. In speaking to development experts, they often cite the fact that rail trails and repurposing historical landmarks like Methuen’s downtown district or the old Cogswell School in Haverhill can be catalysts to bring new families and businesses to the area.
While the Massachusetts Legislature has acted to combat the opioid crisis through a multifaceted approach of more treatment availability, increased penalties for traffickers, and steps to reduce unnecessary prescriptions, we need more resources given the scale of our challenges. That is why I secured funding for the successful CARES program in the Methuen police Department. This is why I also fought for mental health funding for Methuen Public Schools.
If you are interested in the House Budget, you can view it in on malegislature.gov. If you have any questions or comments feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-722-2380. Representative Campbell currently serves as the Vice Chair of the committee on Revenue and represents the Cities of Methuen and Haverhill.