MassBudget provides analysis of this week's funding proposals in the House Ways and Means budget, which would generally maintain existing service levels while making small targeted new investments in several areas including housing, education, and substance abuse prevention and treatment.
To expand access to affordable housing, this budget proposes a $13.5 million increase for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program that provides subsidies to help low-income families and seniors to pay for housing. The budget, however, would reduce funding for shelter for low-income families by $20.5 million. The increased funding for affordable housing will likely reduce the need for shelter, but not likely by $20.5 million.
The House Ways and Means budget also proposes a $15 million increase to raise the rates paid to providers of early education and would provide local school districts with $27.5 million more in Chapter 70 funds than was recommended by the Governor. The budget proposes funding levels for our institutions of higher education that are unlikely to keep pace with inflation and will likely lead to further tuition or fee increases.
To build on ongoing efforts to prevent and treat substance misuse and abuse, the budget proposes a $2.4 million increase for services for substance use disorders at the Department of Public Health.
These relatively small increments to important programs will have significant benefits, but like the Governor's proposal and the budgets of recent years, this budget does not propose significant new funding to make progress on some of the big challenges our Commonwealth faces, such as significantly expanding early education; making higher education more affordable; making sure that our schools have the resources they need to provide high quality education for all children in the Commonwealth; or fixing our transportation infrastructure.
This budget does includes provisions to addresses a major fiscal challenge identified by the Governor: the increases in MassHealth costs related to declines in employer-provided health care and increases in private-sector employees receiving their health coverage through MassHealth. The House Ways and Means budget authorizes the administration to move forward with plans to assess employers who do not meet benchmarks for providing insurance for their employees and it also creates a structure for the Administration to address concerns that have been raised about details of the proposal. This budget counts on only $180 million in related revenue rather than the $300 million in the Governor's budget.
The rest of this Budget Monitor examines the House Ways and Means Committee proposals for major state programs in greater detail. Links from the Table of Contents allow readers to jump quickly to specific sections. Each section also provides links to our on-line budget tools including our Budget Browser(which provides funding information for every line item in the state budget going back to FY 2001) and, where applicable, to our Children's Budget and Jobs & Workforce Budget. When the proposals track the Governor's recommendations closely, we also provide links to the detailed descriptions of those proposals in our Budget Monitor describing the Governor's budget.
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