Payano: Championing Investments in Downtown Revitalization and Local Priorities

By: State Senator Pavel Payano – 6/23

On Thursday, May 25th, the Massachusetts Senate approved a comprehensive budget of $55.9 billion for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24), signaling the Commonwealth’s commitment to fiscal discipline and the long-term economic well-being of the state. With a focus on equity and opportunity, the Senate’s budget delivers historic levels of investment in various sectors, including education, housing, regional transportation, health care, workforce development, and climate preparedness.

During a spirited debate process, the Senate approved 478 amendments, adding $82.2 million in spending to the budget. I played a vital role in advocating for local priorities and securing funding for critical projects in our district. Notably I was able to successfully champion a $600,000 allocation for the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative, which will provide municipalities with technical assistance to promote vibrant, walkable downtowns with a mix of commercial and residential uses, cultural amenities, and accessible public transportation.

In addition to the downtown revitalization initiative, I also secured funding for several local organizations and projects. These include $125,000 for the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center’s Dyeworks Project, $120,000 for MAN Inc., $50,000 each for Lazarus House and MakeIT Haverhill, $40,000 for Hispanic Image and Debbie’s Treasure Chest, $30,000 for the Latino Coalition of Haverhill, $25,000 for Food for World, Inc., and $20,000 for Somebody Cares New England.

I am proud to have advocated for critical funding for the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative and several local priorities. These investments will promote economic growth, create vibrant communities, and improve the quality of life for residents in our district.”

The Senate’s FY24 budget recommends a total spending of $55.8 billion, representing a $3.4 billion increase compared to the previous fiscal year. The budget is based on a tax revenue estimate of $40.41 billion for FY24, including an additional $1 billion from the new Fair Share surtax. This surtax, approved by voters in November 2022, imposes a 4 percent tax on annual income above $1 million, with the revenue directed towards enhancing the state’s education and transportation sectors.

To ensure transparency and accountability, the Senate’s budget establishes an Education and Transportation Fund, dedicated to accounting for the Fair Share funds in an open manner. This fund will track the revenue collected from the surtax and ensure its allocation aligns with the ballot initiative’s intention of improving public education and transportation systems.

Education remains a top priority in the Senate’s FY24 budget, with a historic investment of $1.5 billion in early education and care. This represents the largest-ever annual appropriation for early education and care in Massachusetts history. The funding aims to support early education providers, the workforce, and make quality education more accessible and affordable for all.

By allocating $1.5 billion to early education and care, we are investing in the future of our children and strengthening the economic competitiveness of the Commonwealth. This funding will support providers, prioritize accessibility, and maintain operational support to ensure high-quality education for our youngest learners.

The Senate’s budget also commits to fully funding and implementing the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by FY 2027, investing $6.59 billion in Chapter 70 funding for K-12 education. This represents a substantial increase of $604 million over FY 2023, as well as doubling the minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil. The investment ensures that all school districts in Massachusetts have the necessary resources to deliver high-quality educational opportunities to students.

Furthermore, the Senate’s budget lays the foundation for free community college for all students starting in Fall 2024. With an allocation of $55 million, the budget aims to build capacity and accelerate the implementation of this milestone initiative. It also includes $40 million for free community college programs for students aged 25 or older and students pursuing nursing degrees, addressing critical workforce needs across the state.

Health care and housing were key areas of focus in the Senate’s budget. With a total allocation of $19.93 billion, MassHealth will continue providing affordable and comprehensive health care services to over 2.3 million people in Massachusetts. The budget also includes significant investments in elder nutrition programs, social emotional learning grants for K-12 schools, and support for children advocacy centers.

Recognizing the importance of affordable housing, the Senate’s FY24 budget includes a historic investment of $1.05 billion dedicated to housing stability, residential assistance, and homelessness assistance. These funds will provide critical relief to families and individuals grappling with the effects of the pandemic and financial insecurity. Notable investments include increased funding for emergency assistance family shelters, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, and support for homeless individuals.

The Senate’s budget sets the stage for a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the versions passed by the Senate and House of Representatives. As the budget process moves forward, we will remain committed to upholding fiscal responsibility, ensuring equity and inclusivity, and positioning Massachusetts as a competitive and affordable state for all.

In conclusion, the Senate’s FY24 budget reflects a comprehensive strategy to address the challenges faced by the Commonwealth. Through strategic investments in education, housing, and economic recovery, Massachusetts aims to build a prosperous future for its residents. ◊