Boosts spending to cities and towns, increases support for human services and housing, passes updated Bottle Bill
BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate voted on Thursday, May 23rd to pass a $33.989 billion budget for fiscal year 2014 (FY14).
“This year’s marks the first budget in a few years where the Senate was able to make significant increases in key budget areas, in part due to the improving economy, and the passage of new revenue as part of the Senate transportation finance bill, which I fought to increase. I’m pleased with the priorities we support in this budget, including support for our cities and towns, housing, the environment, helping seniors, and programs to help those in our society who are most in need,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton).
The final Senate budget increases critical Chapter 70 education aid for Massachusetts cities and towns by over $130 million compared to FY13. The plan boosts Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) funding by $21.5 million through a transfer from a surplus from FY13. Funding was also increased for Regional School Transportation by $2 million and for McKinney-Vento Transportation by $1.3 million to alleviate costs accrued by school districts for transporting homeless children to their home schools. Senate members also increased payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT), which provides direct local aid to certain municipalities for hosting state-owned land, by $1 million. Under the plan, local tourism councils would also receive an increase in funding by $1.5 million and $1 million for the education “pothole” funding, which provides state funding to towns that educate military dependents but do not receive the full cost of schooling through federal funds. In addition, the Senate budget included $2m in prison mitigation for communities that host prisons, and regional bonus aid, to support newly-formed regional school districts.
The spending plan also included $11.5 million for the child care salary reserve, increasing the reimbursement rates for state-subsidized childcare providers; and another $11.5 million for the human service salary reserve for underpaid direct care personnel, including highly qualified social workers, speech therapists, and clinicians, who provide services and support to our most vulnerable residents.
The Senate also voted to:
- Expand the state’s bottle bill to include non-carbonated drinks such as water, coffee-based drinks and sports drinks;
- Increase funding for Family Health Services by $500,000;
- Provides $8 million for MassHealth Dental Services;
- Provides an additional $15m to provide an additional 1,000 Mobile Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) vouchers for housing for low-income families
The Senate budget also promotes targeted investments in the area of health and human services by funding sustainable programs that provide long term solutions. The proposal maintains $11.3 million in new funding for Elder Affairs programs and funds councils on aging at the highest level of state support ever. The Senate’s plan will eliminate existing wait lists for home care services and adds $1 million for the Turning 22 program that funds the first-year of services for individuals with intellectual disabilities transitioning out of Special Education into adult services.
The Senate also unanimously approved an amendment filed by Senate President Therese Murray to establish an Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) registry, to be known as the Argeo Paul Cellucci Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Registry, named for the former Massachusetts Governor and Hudson native who suffers from the fatal disease.
Senator Jamie Eldridge championed two amendments to the Senate budget that will assist thousands of families who are currently receiving HomeBASE rental assistance find alternative housing. With more than 5,000 low-income families scheduled to lose their temporary HomeBASE rental assistance by October, Senator Eldridge, as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Housing, continues to focus his energies on producing more stable, safe, and secure housing for all families and individuals in the Commonwealth.
The legislature will now appoint a six member conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the budget before sending it to the Governor for his final approval.