Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Senate Ways and Means Releases FY 2018 Budget Recommendations

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means today (Tuesday - May 16)  announced a $40.79 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The budget recommends targeted investments in a variety of areas to sustain and advance our shared prosperity and future growth, directing resources to programs and services essential for children, families and communities.

“This budget focuses on the fundamentals: education, health and human services, and housing,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “The Committee is clear-eyed about the fiscal environment in which we release our recommendations, but we stand firm in our belief that money invested in securing hope and opportunity for our people is money well spent. As we face unsteady times, we must be prepared to act responsibly. But we must never lose sight of the fact that our fortunes rise and fall together, and that taking care of each other is a core Massachusetts value.”

“This Senate budget makes strategic investments in the Commonwealth’s most critical programs and services, while still working within the context of our fiscal realities,” said Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “As the chair of the Senate Kids First working group, I am particularly pleased with the targeted investments and wide range of supports we included for children and their families. I am proud to have once again worked with Chairwoman Spilka to craft a sustainable and compassionate budget that both reflects the shared priorities of the Senate and addresses the pressing needs of communities throughout the Commonwealth.”

“Once again, we face a very challenging budget year. Our revenues are inadequate to meet many needs and commitments in education, transportation, and housing, among other critical areas” said Senator Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville), Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Chairwoman Spilka and her team have listened to senators and advocates. With compassion and innovative ideas, they worked hard to reconcile those needs with our current resources.”

The FY 2018 budget includes $40.79B in total spending, an increase of 3.3% over FY 2017 estimated spending, and invests in key areas related to local aid, education, health and human services, housing and workforce development. The Committee’s budget recommendations limit the use of one-time revenue sources and protect the state’s Stabilization Fund.

In line with the Senate’s Kids First framework to invest in our children, the Committee directs funding to high quality education for everyone, from children at birth to adults making midlife career transitions.

  • $4.76B in Chapter 70 education funding, including a minimum increase of $30 per pupil aid, 85% effort reduction to bring school districts closer to their target spending and steps to implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations for health care and special education costs.
  • $545.1M for community colleges and universities and $529.5M for the University of Massachusetts, to support lifelong learning and workforce development initiatives at our state higher education institutions.
  • $293.7M to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker for the 6th year in a row, reimbursing school districts for the high cost of educating students with disabilities.
  • $15.1M to expand access to high quality preschool for low income 4 year olds.
  • $10M to boost salaries for early educators.

The Committee’s budget takes steps to contain health care costs and invests in health and human services to ensure access to high quality, affordable health care and to support children, seniors, people with disabilities and veterans.

  • $143M for a range of substance abuse treatment, intervention and recovery support services.
  • $91.4M for mental health services for children and young people, including $3.7M for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Program and $100K for a new pilot program to increase care coordination and referral resources for children with behavioral health needs.
  • $24.2M to fully fund Department of Developmental Services Turning 22 services to help young people with disabilities transition to the adult services system.
  • $13.2M for Family Resource Centers, providing an array of services for families across the state, including multi-cultural parenting programs, support groups and early childhood services.
  • $3.5M to encourage collaboration among agencies, schools and community partners to strengthen programming for early detection and screening for mental illness in children.

The Committee’s budget invests $464.1M in low income housing and homelessness services, with a focus on preventative and supportive resources to connect people with affordable, stable housing, as well as assistance for those in crisis. In addition to increasing funding, the budget expands access to housing and homelessness prevention resources by increasing the income threshold for rental vouchers, expanding eligibility for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program and increasing the HomeBASE re-housing subsidy cap to better divert families to housing.

  • $165.9M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters.
  • $100M for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, providing funding for 350 to 400 new rental assistance vouchers.
  • $46.2M for assistance for homeless individuals.
  • $32.6M for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing program.
  • $18.5M for RAFT, providing short-term financial assistance to low income families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
  • $5.5M for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program to provide over 100 new rental assistance vouchers for low income people with disabilities.
  • $2.5M for housing and supportive services for unaccompanied homeless youth.

The Committee’s budget also makes targeted investments to promote self-sufficiency among low income families and create opportunities for people to develop the skills they need to compete in the workforce and boost our economy.

  • $30M for adult basic education services.
  • $14.6M for the Department of Transitional Assistance Employment Services Program to help people move toward economic independence and self-sufficiency.
  • $12.5M for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth.
  • $4M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund.

The Senate Ways and Means budget continues the Senate’s strong partnership with municipalities in directing significant investments to local aid and community services.

  • $1.06B for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) to support community investments in education, health care, public safety and roads and bridges.
  • $83M for Regional Transit Authorities.
  • $27.7M for the Board of Library Commissioners, $10.4M for regional library local aid, $9.8M for municipal libraries and $2.3M for technology and automated resources.
  • $16.5M for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support the state-wide creative economy and local arts and culture.
  • $14M for local Councils on Aging to strengthen programs and services in senior centers.

Senators can file amendments to the Senate Ways and Means recommendations until Thursday at 5 p.m. The full Senate will then debate the Fiscal Year 2018 budget in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 23rd. The FY 2018 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website:

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