Saturday, July 31, 2021

Massachusetts State Senate Overrides Governor’s Vetoes on Fiscal Year 2022 Funding

Massachusetts State Senate Overrides Governor's Vetoes on Fiscal Year 2022 Funding

Ensures adequate funding for school districts, RTAs, police training, behavioral health and more 

The Massachusetts Senate on Thursday passed a bill to override Governor Charlie Baker's vetoes on certain items in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget passed earlier this month. The actions taken by the Senate will ensure adequate funding for school districts, regional transit authorities (RTAs), and public and mental health supports, as well as the implementation of last year's landmark police reform bill. Additionally, the bill includes measures to reinstate certain guidance relevant to state bodies such as the MBTA and prison facilities.

"Our Fiscal Year 2022 budget was carefully crafted and debated to ensure the success of our efforts to get back to better by focusing on resources and services that are critical to everyday life in the Commonwealth," stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). "The Senate refuses to compromise on investing in public transportation, our schools, and behavioral health supports, among other things, which are so important to our recovery. I would like to thank Chair Rodrigues, the entire Ways and Means committee, and my colleagues for acting swiftly to override the Governor's actions.

"The votes we took to swiftly override the Governor's vetoes ensure we stay the course and uphold the spirit of a forward-looking, fiscally responsible Fiscal Year 2022 budget plan that this Senate passed unanimously a few weeks ago," said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. "I want to thank my friend, Senate President Spilka for her close counsel and leadership, Chair Michlewitz for his continued partnership, the members and staff of Ways and Means for their hard work and my colleagues and their staffs for their input throughout this process. Collectively, our actions today support our Commonwealth and our communities, providing municipalities with critical resources necessary to meet the requirements of police reform, preserving an equitable funding stream for our regional transit authorities, while taking a common-sense approach to fulfill future obligations we know exist—fully funding the Student Opportunity and meeting our state pension needs."

Many of the Governor's vetoes were cost-cutting measures deemed unnecessary by the Legislature in light of the state's need to invest in crucial programs and services. Gubernatorial vetoes threatened $150,000 in funding for the children's behavioral health advisory council, as well as $150,000 for Emergency Family Assistance Shelters. With the Legislature's overrides, these funds are now restored.

To offset the cost of charter schools on school districts, this legislation reinstates a policy of 100 per cent charter school tuition reimbursement for school districts which have reached the spending cap on charter schools, thereby providing $2.9 million to school districts across the Commonwealth. For local transportation, $3.5 million is reinstated to enable Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to operate effectively as use of public transportation picks back up.

Last year's omnibus police reform legislation, An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth, included provisions requiring cities and towns in Massachusetts to follow new officer training standards. In line with this, the Legislature set aside $1 million in funding to pay cities and towns for costs incurred by new training programs, which the Governor vetoed entirely. The override legislation reinstates this funding so that cities and towns can be compliant with the police reform law without additional financial burden.

Citing fiscal concerns, the Senate also voted to further delay implementation of a tax deduction for charitable donations until at least 2023.

"The trigger for the charitable tax deduction was the income tax hitting 5 per cent, and that happened January 1, 2020," said Senator Adam G. Hinds (D-Pittsfield). "In the period between the triggering event and the start of the implementation of the charitable tax deduction, COVID-19 hit and completely changed our economic picture. A delay makes sense until we have more clarity on the economy and our revenue absent federal assistance."

The Fiscal Year 2022 budget conference report included two transfers of FY22 funds to help support known obligations that the Commonwealth will face in the future: fully funding the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) and unfunded state pension obligations. The Governor sent an amendment back asserting that there may not be sufficient surplus funds to make the transfers as proposed and recommended using FY21 funds instead. The Senate adopted a further amendment yesterday that suggests funding these transfers to the highest level possible given actual revenues at the time the transfer is to take place, thus providing flexibility to react to an uncertain future revenue picture while still requiring surplus funded to be dedicated to cover these future obligations.

In addition to funding projects across the Commonwealth, the legislation passed on Thursday encourages the MBTA to develop 'shovel-ready projects,' or projects in their final stages of development, in anticipation of incoming federal dollars and their requirements. The Senate also reinstated guidance on releasing, transitioning, or furloughing inmates from Massachusetts prisons in a timely manner.

Having previously been passed by the House, the overrides now return to the Governor's desk with a veto-proof majority.

Massachusetts State Senate Overrides Governor’s Vetoes on Fiscal Year 2022 Funding
Massachusetts State Senate Overrides Governor’s Vetoes

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