Senator Eldridge votes to passes fiscal year 2016 Senate budget

Eldridge highlights increases to local aid, education, housing, and human services

BOSTON, MA– Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) voted in support of a $38.09 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2016. The Senate budget makes critical investments in key areas of local aid, education, housing, environmental protection, emergency food access, and housing.

“I’m pleased with investments the Senate has made in the FY16 budget that will make a difference in people’s lives, and the reforms embraced by the Senate to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, reform the MBTA, begin reform on our criminal justice system, and increase the oversight of protective services towards children,” said Senator Eldridge. “I also offer great praise for Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Karen Spilka and her staff for their hard work and dedication to make this such a comprehensive state budget.”

“This final budget builds on the themes and investments of the Senate Ways and Means recommendations to lift all families and invest in our future,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Chair Karen Spilka (D-Ashland). “I am proud of the collaborative process and spirited, thoughtful debate this week to create a budget that reflects shared Senate values and advances individuals, families and communities across the Commonwealth.”

“Congratulations to Senator Spilka and the members of the Committee on Ways and Means on an engaging, productive and robust budget debate. This week illustrated the shared values, cooperation and shared leadership in the Senate. The expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and our investments in workforce training, education and economic development in this budget will lift all working families across Massachusetts,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “In addition, this budget changes the structure of the MassDOT board and creates an MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board with real accountability to fix the management issues in our public transit system. I could not be happier with the work of the members of the Senate this week.”

“This year’s budget makes strategic investments in some of our most critical services and programs while still remaining fiscally-prudent,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Vice Chair Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett). “It also helps working families by expanding initiatives, like the earned income tax credit, and supports some of our most vulnerable populations by increasing funding for programs such as adult basic education, pediatric palliative care and food assistance. It has been a pleasure to work alongside Chairwoman Spilka, Senate President Rosenberg and other members of the Senate in crafting a bill that will continue to move the Commonwealth forward.”

“The Senate budget reflects priorities of the members of the Senate, their districts and the people of the Commonwealth,” said Senate Committee on Ways and Means Assistant Vice Chair Pat Jehlen (D-Somerville). “Most notably, it significantly increases the Commonwealth’s investment in elder care and services. It expands eligibility for home care and prevents a waitlist. It increases funding for Mass Councils on Aging. And it protects nursing home residents from potentially losing their beds when they are hospitalized or are visiting family.”

The budget reflects the Senate’s continued commitment to local aid for cities and towns.

• $4.51B for Chapter 70 education aid, allowing for a minimum increase of $25 per pupil and bringing school districts closer to their target spending through 50% effort reduction.
• $979.8M for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) for community investments in education, public safety, roads and bridges and health care.
• $271.6M to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker for the 4th straight year.
• $59M for the Regional School Transportation program, which reimburses regional school districts for the costs of transporting students to and from regional schools.
• $14M for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support arts, culture and the creative economy in communities across the state and $6M for Regional Tourist Councils.

The budget makes investments in economic development and workforce training to help low-income families become self-sufficient, get the unemployed and long-term unemployed back to work and support sectors of the economy that drive economic growth.
The final Senate budget increases the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit to help working families and increases the state’s personal tax exemption for all taxpayers. The tax cuts are revenue neutral and will be paid for by freezing at 5.15% the state’s income tax, which was scheduled to decrease to 5.10% next year if certain triggers are met. By freezing that tax cut and channeling the money back to those who need it most, the Senate hopes to reverse the troubling trend of wage stagnation which has plagued working families for decades. The current Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit is 15% of the Federal program, equal to an average of $315 per recipient. Under the Senate plan, the state match will increase to 22.5% of the Federal program over three years, a 50% increase in the state EITC or an average of $470 per recipient.

Other investments and initiatives to promote self-sufficiency and create opportunities for working families and the unemployed include:

• $17M for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program.
• $12.1M for the Employment Services Program and $5M for the Pathways to Self-Sufficiency Program.
• $11.5M for the Youth-At-Risk Summer Jobs program.
• $2M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to train unemployed and low-wage workers for high demand industries.
• $1.2M for a new Training Resources and Internship Networks (TRAIN) grant program to specifically target the long-term unemployed through partnerships with community colleges to provide training and internship opportunities.
• A new $1M Family Well-Being Plan pilot program to promote educational and employment opportunities for those exempt from Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) work requirements.
In addition, the budget invests in the full spectrum of homelessness prevention and housing support services to strengthen links to permanent housing solutions, including:

• $154.9M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters.
• $85.4M for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program to fund between 600 and 750 new rental assistance vouchers and $4.8M for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program, the rental assistance program for people with disabilities.
• $44.7M for Homeless Individuals Assistance.
• $13M for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT).
• $2M for housing and supportive services for unaccompanied homeless youth.
• A new $7M reserve to fund flexible short-term assistance to divert homeless families, or families at risk of becoming homeless, from shelters to stable housing.
Priorities in the budget reflect the Senate’s commitment to public safety, while encouraging criminal justice innovation in order to reduce recidivism and improve the fairness and effectiveness of the Massachusetts justice system. The budget includes $2.5M for the Massachusetts Offender Recidivism Reduction Program and $8M for the Shannon Grant Program to combat gangs and youth violence in communities across the state. The budget also improves access to justice by investing $17.1M in civil legal aid for poor and disadvantaged Massachusetts residents and $1.4M in Prisoners’ Legal Services.
A Conference Committee will now work out the differences between the Senate budget and the version passed by the House of Representatives in April. Fiscal Year 2016 begins on July 1, 2015.

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