Saturday, September 8, 2018

MassBudget: FY 2019 state budget provides modest increases to early education, local aid

MassBudget  Information.
 Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center  Democracy.

Sept. 6, 2018

FY 2019 state budget provides modest increases to early education, local aid
And a chance to give your feedback on MassBudget's Budget Monitors, below
With the national economy in the ninth year of an economic recovery, budget writers in Massachusetts were able this year to provide modest increases in funding for early education, local aid, and several other important investments. This new funding does not, in many cases, reverse the budget cuts imposed after the tax cuts of the late 1990s and early 2000s. After accounting for increases in this year's budget (and inflation) state spending on early education and care is down 17 percent since 2001. Funding for Local Aid is down 40 percent. And funding for Environment and Recreation programs is down 30 percent. The cost of tax cuts and the long-term trend in health care costs have limited the Commonwealth's ability to make investments in education, infrastructure, and other building blocks of healthy communities and a strong economy.
The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center's latest Budget Monitor finds that the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 Budget (officially called the General Appropriations Act or GAA for short) includes several new initiatives, including the following:
  • A restructuring and funding increase for adult mental health services. The reforms are aimed at providing more coordinated, standardized, and consistent treatment that will better align with health care systems, and will be more comprehensive, particularly for people who also have substance use disorders.
  • An increase in the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), from 23 percent of the federal credit amount to 30 percent. Research has shown that - in addition to encouraging people to work and helping families to make ends meet - the EITC improves health outcomes for mothers and children, and boosts children's academic performance and lifelong earnings.
  • A new process to provide greater scrutiny and reporting on "tax expenditures," which are special tax exemptions, deductions, credits, or other rules that result in forgone revenue with the intention of advancing other policy goals. The state will begin to evaluate the administration, fiscal impact, and cost-effectiveness of the Commonwealth's tax expenditures on a rotating schedule. For procedural reasons this section was ultimately enacted separately from the budget.
While the Legislature overrode virtually all of the Governor's vetoes, one significant reform didn't survive the veto process: a proposal by the Legislature to remove a restriction that bars families from receiving Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) benefits for a child conceived while the family was receiving public assistance.

The Budget Monitor at this link describes the final funding levels and significant policy initiatives in each major section of the budget. Links from the Table of Contents below allow readers to jump to specific sections. Each section also provides links to our online 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.
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Our Budget Monitors provide extensive information on each budget proposal starting with the release of the Governor's budget in the winter through the entire legislative process until the final General Appropriations Act is signed into law in the summer. In order to make our Monitors useful to you, our readers, please fill out this short (one-minute) survey to let us know how you use our Monitor and how we might improve it. Thank you from the MassBudget Team.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center (MassBudget) produces policy research, analysis, and data-driven recommendations focused on improving the lives of low- and middle-income children and adults, strengthening our state's economy, and enhancing the quality of life in Massachusetts.

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Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center's latest Budget Monitor
Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center's latest Budget Monitor

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