Legislature Passes Balanced FY18 Budget

Submitted by Rep. Ken Gordon (D-Bedford)

Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford) joined with his colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature recently to pass a fiscally-responsible $40.2 billion FY18 budget. The bill puts a premium on protecting vulnerable residents through investments in early education and care (EEC), substance addiction initiatives, homelessness programs, and funding to help individuals with developmental disabilities.

This budget takes comprehensive action to promote sustained economic health through a $100 million deposit to the stabilization fund which will result in projected balance of more than $1.4 billion.

[The FY18 budget] focuses on supporting vulnerable residents and fostering sustainable economic growth, including support for children of military families who live on Hanscom Air Force Base and attend Bedford High School. +In addition to the funding for military students, Bedford will be receiving $4,624,342 in Chapter 70 Education Funding, an over 6% increase from FY17 and $1,146,725 in Unrestricted General Government Aid, an over 3% increase from FY17. 

“In the midst of a tough fiscal climate we’ve delivered a fiscally-responsible budget that makes targeted investments and protects our most vulnerable citizens,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said.“I am particularly proud of the work we’ve done on early education and care, which will have a lasting impact on both the workforce and the Commonwealth’s children, and supporting those battling addiction.”

The Legislature appropriated funding pursuant to a Representative Gordon amendment which will be used for the education of the children of military families who live on Hansom Air Force Base and attend Bedford High School.  Rep. Gordon joined with Senator Mike Barrett in the 2015 session to pass a law that requires the Commonwealth to reimburse the town for the education of the military students, but the law is subject to appropriation.

“I am proud to say that in a tight financial year the Legislature maintained its commitment to public education at all levels. This budget marks the fifth time Senator Mike Barrett and I have secured funding for the Bedford Public Schools in this line item together,” said Representative Gordon.

In addition to the funding for military students, Bedford will be receiving $4,624,342 in Chapter 70 Education Funding, an over 6% increase from FY17 and $1,146,725 in Unrestricted General Government Aid, an over 3% increase from FY17.

The FY18 budget makes unprecedented investments to improve Massachusetts’ early education and care system, with a focus on supporting the EEC workforce and providing access to high-quality learning opportunities to ensure children are better prepared for academic success. The budget provides $15 million for the early educator rate reserve and $4 million to support quality programming and workforce training. The Legislature also builds on its notable commitment to behavioral health by providing $2.5 million for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation grant to help early detection and prevention efforts.

Recognizing that municipalities have unique and diverse needs, the Legislature continues to fund local aid at historic levels. This budget increases Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by $40 million and local education aid (Chapter 70) by almost $119 million. The increase to Chapter 70 guarantees that every school district will receive a minimum of $30 per pupil in FY18. The budget also begins to implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations by making adjustments to more accurately reflect employee health benefits.

In 2014, under the House’s leadership, Massachusetts passed a nationally-heralded gun safety law which includes the Safe and Supportive Schools initiative. This budget bolsters continued efforts by directing the Safe and Supportive Schools Commission to establish an infrastructure to help schools leverage and coordinate community-based health, youth development and social services resources that enable students to achieve well-being and academic success.

In addition to local education investments, the House funds numerous programs to support college students, including $96 million in state scholarship opportunities and provides increased funding for higher education campuses across the state including increases from FY17 of:

  • $5.3 million for the University of Massachusetts;
  • $8.1 million for state universities and community colleges.

It also:

  • Provides $1.55 million for the Intern Partnership program to help young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups.
  • Creates the UMass Innovation Voucher program and provides $2 million to encourage startups and manufacturing companies to partner with the university’s research and development facilities.
  • Invests $4.25 million in the STEM Starter Academy to strengthen and expand STEM programming in community colleges. The program has shown incredible early success by connecting students with employment opportunities. It has also resulted in a national award for Springfield Tech Community College.

Since FY12, the Legislature has increased funding for substance addiction services to unprecedented levels and passed two landmark bills to help address this public health epidemic. This year’s budget makes notable investments related to behavioral health and addiction, including almost $132.5 million for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS), including $1 million for supportive case management services and $1 million for expanding access to residential rehabilitation services. The FY18 budget also sets aside $4.3 million for suicide prevention efforts.

Emphasizing increased access to permanent housing options has proven effective to combat homelessness in Massachusetts. For example, the caseload for hotels and motels is expected to zero out by the end of this fiscal year and projections indicate that caseloads for emergency assistance will return to pre-recession levels. Investments include:

  • About $93 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program;
  • $155 million for residential assistance for families in transition;
  • $5.5 million for the Department of Mental Health rental assistance;
  • About $46 million for homeless individuals.

The budget includes an increase of $11.3 million to the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to fund several cross-agency initiatives. In addition to behavioral health and substance addiction initiatives, the FY18 budget features numerous provisions to protect residents facing adversity including:

  • The House’s budget rejects the Administration’s proposal to change the calculation for supplemental security income, resulting in a $14.6 million increase over the Administration’s FY18 budget to support individuals receiving these benefits;
  • Allows survivors of domestic violence to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit in a safe manner;
  • An increase of $36 million for the Department of Children and Families which will allow for more than 550 new hires to address caseloads.

Given the growing and changing need for developmental services this budget funds an increase of almost $62 million with a particular focus on the Turning 22 population.

In anticipation of a criminal justice reform bill later in the session, the budget includes $3 million to fund recommendations made by the Council on State Government.

The budget also creates a tax credit for businesses that hire Veterans. Eligible businesses would receive $2,000 per year for the first two years of a Veteran’s employment. This provision enhances the Commonwealth’s reputation as a national leader in providing benefits to military personnel, Veterans, and their families.

Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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