Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Senate Ways and Means Releases FY 2016 Budget Recommendations

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means today announced a $38.01 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2016. The budget makes strategic, targeted investments in a variety of areas to create new opportunities, strengthen networks of support and encourage overall economic growth for individuals, families and communities across the Commonwealth.

"These budget line items are more than just numbers," said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka. "They reflect shared Senate values and our commitment to foster upward economic mobility and greater equality for all residents. Our goal is to lift all families and lay the foundation for shared prosperity."

"This year's budget makes strategic targeted investments in education and economic development that will undoubtedly strengthen the Commonwealth's economy, while also providing critical aid to our most vulnerable populations," said Senator Sal DiDomenico, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "It has been a pleasure working alongside Chairwoman Spilka, and I am proud of the important investments that we have made to keep the Commonwealth moving forward."

"Congratulations to Senator Spilka and the members of the Committee on Ways and Means for producing a budget that is fiscally responsible while making targeted investments in education, workforce training and economic development to help working families across Massachusetts," said Senate President Stan Rosenberg. "This budget will continue our position as leader in these areas and also takes care of our most vulnerable residents. I look forward to a spirited debate."

The FY 2016 budget includes $38.01B in total spending, an increase of 3.1% over FY 2015 spending, and invests in key areas of local aid, education, economic development and services for vulnerable and under-served populations.

The budget reflects the Senate's continued commitment to local aid for cities and towns.

·         $4.51B for Chapter 70 education aid, allowing for a minimum increase of $25 per pupil and bringing school districts closer to their target spending through 50% effort reduction.
·         $979.8M for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) for community investments in education, public safety, roads and bridges and health care.
·         $271.6M to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker for the 4th straight year.
·         $7.5M for the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism and $5M for Local Tourist Councils.
·         $12M for the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

In addition to Chapter 70 education aid and the Special Education Circuit Breaker, the budget invests in education at all levels: from early education to college to workforce development.

·         $17.9M total increase for Department of Early Education and Care accounts, including $12M to reduce the waitlist for childcare services and $14.8M for the Children's Trust Fund Healthy Families program.
·         $1.5M for the STEM Pipeline Fund.
·         $1.5M for the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN) initiative.
·         $2.8M for the Connecting Activities public-private partnership that links high school students with hands-on learning opportunities, mentoring and job placement.
·         $12.5M increase for State Universities and Community Colleges and $19.3M increase for the University of Massachusetts.

The budget targets economic development and workforce training initiatives to create opportunities and connect people of all income levels with the skills they need to join the workforce and secure good, well-paying jobs. The budget makes investments and establishes new initiatives to help low-income families become self-sufficient, get the unemployed and long-term unemployed back to work and support sectors of the economy that drive economic growth.

Investments and initiatives to promote self-sufficiency among low-income individuals and families and recipients of Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) support include:

  • $12.1M for the Employment Services Program to help individuals find jobs and resolve barriers to employment, including skills training and job search assistance.
  • $5M for the Pathways to Self-Sufficiency Program.
  • An increase to the clothing allowance for needy families to $200 per child, the highest in the history of this stipend.
  • A new $1M Family Well-Being Plan pilot program to promote educational and employment opportunities for participants exempt from the DTA work requirement.

Efforts to help the unemployed and underemployed update their skills and find jobs include:

  • $2M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to train unemployed and low-wage workers for high demand industries.
  • $1.2M for a new Training Resources and Internship Networks (TRAIN) grant program to specifically target the long-term unemployed through partnerships with community colleges to provide training and internship opportunities.
  • $11.5M for the Youth-At-Risk Summer Jobs program.

The budget supports the sectors of the Massachusetts economy that drive economic growth, targeting investments in the innovation and knowledge-based economy.

  • $15M for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center out of the consolidated net surplus.
  • $3M for the Innovation Institute at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
  • $1.5M for the Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund.
  • $1.5M for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $945K for a Precision Manufacturing Program.
  • $750K for Regional Economic Development Grants.

In addition, the budget invests in populations that are often under-served, funding services for the homeless, individuals struggling with substance abuse and the disabled.

The budget invests in the full spectrum of homelessness prevention and housing support services to strengthen links to permanent housing solutions, including:
·         $154.9M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters.
·         $85.4M for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program to fund between 600 and 750 new rental assistance vouchers.
·         $44.7M for Homeless Individuals Assistance.
·         $4.5M for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program, the rental assistance program for people with disabilities.
·         $2M for housing and supportive services for unaccompanied homeless youth.
·         A new $7M reserve to fund flexible short-term assistance to divert homeless families, or families at risk of becoming homeless, from shelters to stable housing.

This budget continues the Senate's mission to break the cycle of addiction through investments in substance abuse prevention, recovery and treatment, including:

  • $10M for the Substance Abuse Trust Fund to fund a range of treatment services, including detoxification, clinical stabilization, transitional support, residential services and outpatient treatment.
  • $5M for more than 150 new clinical stabilization beds.
  • $1.5M for grants to school districts to hire mental health and substance abuse counselors.
  • $3.1M for Recovery High Schools, including $1M to establish two new schools.
  • A new Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchase Program to allow municipalities to purchase the lifesaving overdose reversal drug commonly referred to as Narcan at discounted rates.

The budget also invests in tools and resources to help individuals with disabilities to be as self-sufficient, independent and productive as possible in their communities, including skills and job training, housing and support services. In a new Senate initiative, the budget provides $250K for the Department of Developmental Disabilities to identify best practices, provide training for direct care staff and collect data to meet the needs of aging individuals with disabilities.

The budget also invests in services for at-risk youth, seniors and veterans, public health and mental health programs and innovative ways to improve access to justice and reduce recidivism.

screen grab of  Senate Ways and Means web page
screen grab of  Senate Ways and Means web page

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 2016 budget in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 19th. The full FY 2016 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature's website:

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