Representative Jeffrey N. Roy joined his colleagues in the Legislature in passing a $39.145 billion budget that prioritizes the needs of municipalities and those in need, while investing in key areas related to local aid, education, children's health and safety, housing, health and human services, workforce training and economic development. The spending bill also reflects an active response to an unpredictable revenue shortfall through responsible and forward-looking solutions.
"I'm proud that in the midst of a tough economic climate, we came to an agreement on a fiscally-responsible budget that minimizes cuts and protects our most vulnerable citizens," House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said.
"It's important to reaffirm our commitment to local aid and our communities," said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D - Franklin) "The House and Senate were successful at including significant local and regional money throughout the Commonwealth in this coming fiscal year's budget. Additionally, Massachusetts is dealing with several important societal issues, like the opioid epidemic, public safety, aging infrastructure, and an aging population. The Legislature has struck a balance that will be able to take on these challenges and maintain our commitments to our communities, our children, the aged, those with disabilities, economic development, and the arts."
The Legislature was able to maintain its record-high investments in local aid, including increases in both local education funding and Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA). UGGA was boosted by 4.3 percent and education aid was increased by $55 per-pupil-aid, more than doubling last year's expenditure. The budget also fully funds Special Education Circuit Breaker. In addition to local education funding, the Legislature continues to emphasize to the impact that high-quality Early Education and Care (EEC) has on the lives of our residents – both children and adults – by making targeted investments to support the EEC workforce while expanding access to high-quality programming. EEC investments include a $12.5 million rate reserve, $4M to ensure access to quality EEC programming, including continued support for pre-kindergarten expansion opportunities. Some of the other budget highlights include:
· $139.2M in total funding to fight the opioid epidemic, an increase of $23.6M over FY2016 spending.
· $14.1M for local Councils on Aging, increasing the formula grant to $10 per senior per year and strengthening local senior center community programming and services.
· $940.8M for the Department of Children and Families, an $18.3M increase over FY2016 spending.
· Limits MBTA fare increases to 7% every 2 years to ensure Massachusetts residents have access to affordable public transportation.
Recognizing that education and economic development are intrinsically paired, the budget enhances the Legislature's focus on bolstering job opportunities for residents of all skillsets in diverse regions of the Commonwealth through programs including:
· Invests $2 million in the Big Data Innovation and Workforce Fund, to promote the big data and analytics industries, provide tools for related career development and explore how analytics can help address problems of public concern;
· MassCAN: $1.7 million to establish and enhance widespread, progressive computer science curriculum in public school through a public-private matching program;
· Provides $1 million for technical grants for small business;
· Talent Pipeline: $1.5 million to encourage young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups, and to provide mentoring opportunities for new entrepreneurs;
· Provides $1 million for the John Adams Innovation Institute;
· Continues to fund the Massachusetts Manufacturing Partnership, a program that continues to show results in closing the skills gap.
Finally, the budget also includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in local aid for Franklin and Medway, namely:
· $25,000 to develop a recreation management plan for the Franklin, Medway, and Bellingham Army Corps of Engineers flood plain and wildlife habitat;
· $15,000 for the Franklin Downtown Partnership, Inc.;
· $10,000 for the construction of a Little Free Library on Franklin Housing Authority property
· $65,000 for the Franklin Fire Department to purchase communication safety equipment;
· $50,000 for the Franklin Senior Center
· $20,000 shall be expended for the Makerspace program in the Medway Public Library
· $200,000 for the Medway public schools
· $40,000 shall be expended for public safety improvements in the town of Medway.
The Budget now goes to the Governor for his review and consideration.