Difficult budget increases education aid, support for affordable housing, substance abuse treatment, and funds local projects
BOSTON – State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) voted to approve a final $40.202B billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The budget makes reductions in spending from the originally proposed Senate budget due to revised revenue forecasts, but maintains a strong commitment to Chapter 70 education funding and preserves local aid to cities and towns.
“I voted for this budget because it increases funding for important state investments including K-12 public education and affordable housing vouchers,” said Senator Eldridge. “At the same time, I’m disappointed that the conference committee made cuts to the Department of Environmental Protection, homeless individual assistance, and public housing, while eliminating revenue-generating policies that were included in the Senate budget passed in May.”
The FY 2018 budget includes $40.202B in total spending with investments in education, local aid, health care, substance abuse services, developmental services and children and families. It also deposits $100M into the state’s Stabilization Fund.
Significant final investments include:
- $4.74B in Chapter 70 education funding – a $118.9M increase, which amounts to a $30 per pupil increase, 85% effort reduction, and a significant down payment on foundation budget health care rate increases.
- $1.061B for Unrestricted Local Aid to Cities and Towns – a $40M increase.
- $15M for Early Education and Care (EEC) rate reserve.
- $132.5M for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services to continue to fund beds, treatment centers, life-saving medications and recovery options.
- $61.7M increase to developmental services, particularly in support of the growing Turning 22 population.
- $36M increase in overall DCF funding to continue important initiatives designed to ensure that every family has a healthy, supportive environment.
- $400,000 increase to the Alternative Housing Voucher Program, which provides rental assistance vouchers for low income individuals with disabilities.
- $6.2M increase in overall funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program.
Further recommendations preserved in the conference committee report include:
- Expansion of the Housing Court to all MetroWest communities to stabilize housing and keep residents in their homes, including Harvard, Northborough, Southborough, Westborough, and Sudbury, whose housing disputes were previously resolved in district court.
- Creation of a dedicated reserve for Committee for Public Council Services (CPCS) to ensure that these attorneys will be paid regularly for their crucial work moving forward.
- Creation of a study to assess the feasibility of a public health insurance option.
- Making victims of domestic violence eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
- Requires data on solitary confinement in state prisons.
- Research on gun crimes.
Senator Eldridge also secured several key investments for programs and services in his district:
- $150,000 for Mount Wachusett Community College Manufacturing and Technology Training Programs allowing MWCC Devens to continue offering free and low-cost advanced manufacturing training programs.
- $75,000 for the MetroWest Free Medical Program to increase access to affordable health care for low-income populations.
- $25,000 to the Middlesex District Attorney’s office for a countywide assessment of opioid prevention, intervention, and treatment programs.
- $75,000 for the Open Table Food Pantry, which offers weekly community dinner programs and food pantries in Concord and Maynard to more than 300 guests.
- $50,000 for restoration of the Levi Weatherbee Farm in Boxborough.
- $100,000 for much needed improvements to Ghiloni Park and Stevens Playground in the city of Marlborough.
- $75,000 to add additional van service to an existing senior shuttle service in Maynard and Acton.
- $75k to the Hudson shuttle service.
The budget will now go to Governor Baker for his signature.