July 28, 2015
The Honorable Stanley C. Rosenberg
President of the Senate
State House, Room 332
Boston, MA 02133
The Honorable Karen E. Spilka
Senate Ways and Means Chair
State House, Room 212
Boston, MA 02133
RE: Priority Budget Overrides
Dear President Rosenberg and Chairwoman Spilka,
I write to respectfully request that you consider overriding the following items, which were included in the Governor’s FY16 vetoes. I believe the FY16 budget passed by the House and Senate was responsible and included much needed and significant increases in key budget areas. It is disheartening to see that the Governor’s vetoes cut many of these critical budget items and will have a direct negative impact on the quality of life of people in the towns and cities I represent. With this in mind, I urge the Senate to take up the following overrides of Governor Baker’s vetoes.
1. ELL in Gateway Cities: Funding eliminated (7009-6400)
The English Language Learners in Gateway Cities program is essential to middle and high school students that require instruction in language skills to complement and strengthen their academic studies. This important program has been the target of cuts and funding was completely eliminated for the 2015 summer programming through 9C cuts. Please override Governor’s veto and restore funding to $1.2 million.
2. Kindergarten Expansion Grants: Reduction of $17,589,713 (7030-1002)
Access to full-day kindergarten is an important initiative in the Commonwealth. Expansion grants help school districts that wish to transition from part-time to full-day and also assist other school districts that seek to improve the quality of full-day programs and provide professional development. As we work to provide all children with access to an early and robust program of early education, we must ensure that we adequately fund important grant programs such as these. Please override Governor’s reduction and restore funding to $18.6 million.
3. Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative: Funding eliminated (3000-6025)
Similar to full-day kindergarten, grants for preschool opportunities provide children an additional boost and strong foundation for future learning, especially for high-needs students. Please override Governor’s veto and restore funding to $500,000.
1. University of Massachusetts: Reduction of $5,250,472 (7100-0200) and Community Colleges (Berkshire, Quinsigamond, Middlesex and Bunker Hill): Reduction of $418,000 (7502-0100, 7512-0100, 7516-0100 and 7518-0100)
Our state colleges and universities provide quality education to the people of the Commonwealth. Both the University of Massachusetts and our community colleges are expected to operate smoothly and provide a competitive educational experience when compared to other private colleges and universities. We should prioritize investments for these institutions if we want to continue to this tradition. Please override Governor’s reduction for University of Massachusetts and restore funding to $531,807,373. Also, please override Governor’s reduction of $418,000 for community colleges listed above.
1. Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP): Reduction of $3 million (7004-9024)
The Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), the Commonwealth’s rental assistance program, is the most efficient and cost-effective homelessness prevention program in the state. The average voucher costs the Commonwealth approximately $600 per month per family as compared with a cost of about $3,000 per month to house a family in shelter. This important program has been underfunded for quite some time and the FY16 budget was finally able to provide the boost it required. The restored funding will help create about 800 new vouchers. Please override Governor’s $3 million reduction and restore funding to $90.9 million.
2. Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs): Reduction of $650,000 (7004-3036)
HCECs are critical to the delivery of state-funded housing services, such as RAFT and HomeBASE. Families and individuals facing stressful and difficult situations need a place to ask questions and learn more about their options. The HCECs provide this frontline assistance and help these individuals achieve sustainable housing. Last fiscal year, HCECs assisted more than 73,000 households. Please override Governor’s reduction and restore funding to $2.89 million.
3. Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Services: Funding eliminated (4000-0007)
The Legislature recently passed a landmark unaccompanied youth homelessness law, Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014, which will help many young people who are homeless to find shelter and services. The $2 million in funding for a new line item will direct the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) to provide a range of housing and services for unaccompanied youth and support this vulnerable population. Please override Governor’s veto and restore funding to $2 million.
1. Water Quality Monitoring for Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers: Funding eliminated (2200-0100)
The Sudbury, Assabet and Concord Rivers that run through my district do not currently meet water quality benchmarks set forth by state and federal law. Due to the lack of state funds, the burden of keeping these rivers clean fall on non-profits, such as OARS in this case. Many people use these rivers for recreational uses and surrounding communities, as water supplies. Something as important as the water quality of our rivers should be a priority of the state budget. Please override Governor’s veto of this earmark and restore funding to $25,000.
2. State Climatologist: Funding eliminated (2000-1207)
As the effects of climate change are becoming heavily apparent, the state must be prepared to implement a plan to counter them. Last year’s budget allocated funding for a state climatologist, but was eliminated by 9C cuts. The Office of the State Climatologist will provide both state and local government much needed guidance in terms of climate change. A full-time climatologist is important for informed policy and investments in this area as the Commonwealth moves forward. Please override Governor’s veto and restore funding to $200,000.
3. Environmental Protection Administration: Reduction of $325,000 (2200-0100)
Adequately supporting the Department of Environmental Protection is essential to maintaining the Commonwealth’s high quality of life, protecting our natural resources and ensuring future economic growth. Complete funding will help DEP carry out its core functions of protecting public health, permitting new development in a timely manner and ensuring that our air and water are clean. Please override Governor’s reduction and restore funding to $29,520,620.
1. Transitional Aid to Families w/ Dependent Children: Reduction of $9,395,093 (4403-2000)
This program is very important for families in the Commonwealth that are struggling to balance caring for children and staying employed. Assistance is used for job training, education, child care, transportation and other necessary costs. Although data shows caseloads have dropped, it is important to note that this has also affected the maximum amount of support that each family receives. This results in recipients receiving support that does not keep up with inflation. If we expect these families to achieve self-sufficiency, then we must provide the necessary means to work, support a family and find housing. Please override Governor’s reduction of $9,395,093 and restore funding to $230,875,182.
2. Emergency Aid to the Elderly Disabled: Reduction of $2,677,285 (4408-1000)
This cash assistance program provides support to elderly who are disabled or who are caring for someone that is disabled. This program is also for children who are not eligible for TAFDC benefits. Support for these important programs that move individuals toward financial stability should not be cut. Please override Governor’s reduction of $2,677,285 and restore funding to $78,877,812.
3. Family Health Services: Reduction of $600,000 (4513-1000)
This line item provides funding to the family planning clinics throughout the Commonwealth. These clinics provide family planning services, HIV testing and counseling. Access to these clinical services is very important for the low income communities the clinics are located in. Family planning programs cover either all or a large part of the costs for individuals below 300 percent of the federal poverty level. It is important we keep these services available to those that need it most. Please override Governor’s reduction of $600,000 and restore funding to $5,624,931.
1. Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC): Reduction of $2,374,800 (0640-0300)
The MCC brings many arts and cultural exhibits and programs to the Commonwealth. The funding in the FY16 budget would enable the MCC fund programs in the 29 cultural districts for the first time. Please override Governor’s $2.4 million reduction and restore funding to $14,160,000.
Thank you for your consideration of these overrides. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about any of these items, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,
James B. Eldridge
Middlesex & Worcester