Saturday, May 25, 2019

MA State Senate Passes FY 2020 Budget

After adding $74.4 million in additional funding to its original proposal during three days of deliberations, the Massachusetts State Senate passed a $42.8 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2020. The final budget makes targeted investments in education, transportation and mental health services, among other priorities.

"I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the members of the Senate for their kindness, thoughtfulness, willingness to work collaboratively, and commitment to service during this entire budget process," said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "Together, we worked hard to produce a fiscally responsible budget that reflects our Senate values."

"I am proud of the collaborative process that the Senate employed this week, my first budget debate as Chair. Through robust debate, we made further investments across several key areas including substance use treatment and supports, civics education, security upgrades at non-profits, and suicide prevention," said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "Through respectful and thoughtful deliberation, and under the leadership of Senate President Spilka, the Senate has passed a budget that reflects our commitment to ensuring equity and boldly moving Massachusetts forward. Thank you to my colleagues in the Senate for their many steps passionate advocacy over the course of our debate."

The most notable area of investment is in K-12 public education funding. The Senate budget funds Chapter 70 at $5.176B, an increase of $268.4M over FY 2019. This funding level is the largest year-over-year increase in public education funding in 20 years, and also represents a significant down payment to fully fund the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC) through focusing on school districts with the most pressing costs related to low-income students in economically disadvantaged communities, employee health benefits, special education, and English language learners. This level of investment also allows for a minimum aid increase of at least $30 per pupil over FY 2019 for every school district across the state, as well as 100% effort reduction to bring all school districts to their target local contribution.

Education funding also gets a boost through $345 million to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker and reimburse school districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate; $75.8 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs, including an additional $2 million added through the amendment process; and $100 million to reimburse school districts for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools. Funding for public higher education includes $558 million for the University of Massachusetts, $293.2 million for the state's fifteen community colleges, and $274 million for the nine state universities.

"After a week of productive and substantive debate and discussion with my Senate colleagues, I am more confident than ever that the Senate's budget for Fiscal Year 2020 will meaningfully address many of the Commonwealth's greatest collective needs," said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Assistant Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education. "I'm especially pleased that this budget makes substantial new investments in education, reflecting the Senate's longstanding commitment to supporting public education and laying the groundwork for the Massachusetts Legislature to update the Commonwealth's school funding formula and ensure that every school district is adequately and equitably funded."

The Senate budget funds MassHealth at a total of $16.55 billion to maintain access to affordable health care coverage for over 1.8 million people and ensure comprehensive care for children, seniors and low income residents. Cost containment measures included providing MassHealth with additional tools to tackle the rapidly growing cost of pharmaceutical drugs by permitting the Secretary of Health and Human Services to directly negotiate for rebates or cost effective payment arrangements with pharmaceutical manufacturers. The budget also explores new and creative cost savings initiatives for MassHealth to purchase prescription drugs and requires greater transparency from pharmacy benefit managers. The budget also includes $10 million for a new behavioral health outreach, access and support trust fund to support a loan forgiveness initiative for behavioral health workers and a general public awareness campaign to further the Senate's priority to increase access to mental health care.

"This Senate budget reflects our strong commitment to increasing access to quality, affordable health care, ensuring that every student has the opportunity to receive a quality education, and expanding access to behavioral health services," said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. "As our state continues to grapple with the opioid crisis, I'm especially proud that this budget makes strong investments in mental health treatment and harm reduction initiatives to ensure more resources for families and their loved ones. I want to sincerely thank Chair Rodrigues and Senate President Spilka for their leadership, hard work, and collaboration during this process and for facilitating a thoughtful and efficient debate."

The Senate's budget includes a total of $42.8B in spending, a 3.2% increase over the Fiscal Year 2019 General Appropriations Act. The FY 2020 budget reduces reliance on the use of one-time revenue sources and directs $268M to the Stabilization Fund to continue to build the Commonwealth's financial safety net.

"This budget was the product of bipartisan input, debate, and adoption. It recognizes important Senate priorities such as public education, aid for cities and towns, health care, senior care, transportation, substance abuse and more while creating opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce government costs," said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R- Gloucester). "We deposit more than $260 million into the Stabilization Fund, provide tools for MassHealth to pursue savings, probe the MBTA pension problem, respond to the growing skilled nursing home crisis, and we take steps to foster greater economic prosperity for all; this is a bold budget that avoids broad-based tax hikes and adheres to principles of fiscal discipline"

Additional education investments include:

· $2.5M for the Early Colleges program to allow students to earn college credits and get a head start on the transition to college, with $815K added on the floor
· $2M for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to support high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 with access to higher education opportunities
· $12M for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families
· $7.5M for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to preschool in underserved areas
· $6.5M for Youth-At-Risk Matching grants, including support for YWCAs, YMCAs and Boys & Girls Clubs, after adding $1.9M on the floor
· $2.5M for Rural School Aid , after adding $1M on the floor

Additional health care investments include:

· $150.2M for a range of substance abuse treatment and intervention services, including $3.5M in new funding to open five new recovery centers
· $5M for investments in the substance use disorder workforce, including training on medication management, medication-assisted treatment and treatment of co-occurring disorders
· $93.4M for children's mental health services, including $3.9M for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Program (MCPAP) and $675K for MCPAP for Moms to address mental health needs of pregnant and postpartum women
· $16.5M for Family Resource Centers to expand to new communities and meet increased demand for services
· $489M for Adult Support Services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
· $25M to fully fund Department of Developmental Services Turning 22 services to help young people with disabilities transition to adulthood
· $5M for the coordination of a comprehensive statewide strategy, in partnership with municipalities, public health harm reduction organizations and other stakeholders, to promote existing harm reduction efforts and community-based harm reduction services
· $1M for the Healthy Relationship grants program to support teen dating violence prevention efforts, after adding $850K on the floor

The Senate's budget invests in programs and policies to educate, train, and prepare Massachusetts workers in order to provide them with opportunities to grow and succeed. Opportunity investments include:

· $38.5M for adult basic education services to improve access to skills and tools necessary to join the workforce
· $15.6M for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth, after adding $1.2M on the floor
· $7M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs
· $2.5M for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Innovation Institute
· $2.5M for the Precision Manufacturing Program
· $2M for Small Business Technical Assistance grants
· $2M for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership
· $1M for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state

The Senate's budget maintains the Senate's commitment to increasing access to quality, affordable housing, investing in low-income housing and homelessness services and supports. 

Housing investments include:

· $178.7M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters, after adding $800K on the floor
· $110M for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
· $48.3M for assistance for homeless individuals
· $30.8M for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs
· $21M for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), including $3M to continue expanding eligibility for individuals in need, including persons with disabilities, seniors, unaccompanied youth, after adding $1M on the floor
· $8M for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) providing rental assistance to people with disabilities and $2.7M for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
· $7.5M for rental subsidies to help those suffering from mental health find or maintain stable housing, after adding $1M on the floor
· $5M for housing and supportive services for unaccompanied homeless youth
· $2.9M for the Home and Healthy Good program, including $500K for a new housing program to support those experiencing homelessness who also have complex medical and behavioral health needs.

The FY 2020 budget furthers regional equity and supports cities and towns by directing significant resources to local and regional aid. This includes increased funding for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to $90.5M and ties future funding to inflation, while incentivizing RTAs to adopt best practices to ensure that commuters, students, seniors and people with disabilities are able to rely on public transportation to access jobs, education and opportunity. In addition to traditional local aid, the Senate's budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $30M. PILOT funding has been a beneficial source of local aid that provides cities and towns with additional resources to support core public services. 

Local investments include:

· $1.129B for unrestricted general government aid to support community investments in education, health care, public safety and roads and bridges
· $29.1M for the Board of Library Commissioners, $11.5M for regional library local aid, $9.9M for municipal libraries and $3.3M for technology and automated resources
· $18M for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives, after adding $1M on the floor
· $18.1M for local Councils on Aging to strengthen programs and services in senior centers in communities across the state, after adding $1.4M on the floor
· $11M for Shannon Grants, which are distributed to municipalities for youth gang violence prevention, after adding $2M on the floor

A Conference Committee will now convene to reconcile the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives in April. Fiscal Year 2020 begins on July 1, 2019.

For more on the Senate budget visit their web page

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