Budget makes key investments in municipal assistance, substance abuse prevention, homelessness prevention, improved transparency in law enforcement and criminal justice reform
BOSTON, MA–Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) voted in favor of a $341.7 million supplemental budget to address deficiencies and outstanding Fiscal Year 2015 obligations and fund new and ongoing initiatives. These initiatives include funds to support substance abuse prevention and treatment, criminal justice reform, homelessness prevention and services for children and families.
“This version of the supplemental budget includes vital funding for homelessness prevention, public safety and better oversight for criminal justice reform with a body camera pilot program and increased rehabilitation support for female prisoners,” said Senator Eldridge. “I applaud Senate Ways and Means Committee Chairwoman Karen Spilka, on her efforts to make committed budget reinvestments on a wide range of important budget priorities.”
“Today we officially closed the books on Fiscal Year 2015,” said Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This supplemental budget reflects the Senate’s priority to build up the state’s Rainy Day Fund and pay down our debt. We also fund important initiatives to advance Senate priorities on substance abuse, criminal justice reform and services for our most vulnerable. This includes $5 million for homelessness prevention, a $250,000 pilot grant program to allow police departments to purchase body cameras, and legislative language that prohibits civilly-committed women with substance abuse problems from being sent to prison.”
“In its version of the supplemental budget approved during today’s debate, the Senate made a clear priority of helping Massachusetts protect itself from future recessions by building up our Rainy Day Fund,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “This fund has been our biggest insurance policy against downturns in the past. With the recession behind us, it’s time to replenish the fund to guarantee it’s there to protect us when we need it most.”
“This bill reflects a number of key priorities for the Senate and the Republican Caucus because it protects the health and well-being of children, expands substance abuse coverage, seeks to study the PARCC school assessments and takes responsible steps to stabilize state agencies,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “Among the most important hallmarks of this bill are those which reflect and support fiscal discipline, a $120 million deposit into the state’s Rainy Day Fund and $100 million to pay off debt.”
The supplemental budget ends the fiscal year in balance and ensures a stable fiscal position for fiscal year 2016. The bill includes a $120 million deposit to the state’s Stabilization Fund, or “Rainy Day Fund,” to begin rebuilding the balance of the fund.
Building on legislation the Senate passed last week to address the opiate crisis in Massachusetts, the supplemental budget includes a total of $27.8 million for substance abuse treatment and prevention programs. This funding includes $1.2 million for the SBIRT substance abuse screening program in schools and $3.8 million for substance abuse counselors.
The bill also includes $5.8 million to support a new program at Taunton State Hospital for civilly committed women who would otherwise receive treatment at MCI-Framingham and language to prohibit women from being committed to MCI-Framingham for rehabilitative services beginning January 1, 2017.
The bill includes $250,000 for a grant program for municipal police departments to purchase body cameras and $300,000 for a pilot program to identify and address gaps in the criminal justice system for individuals with mental health and substance abuse disorders.
In addition, the bill provides $5 million for homelessness diversion, prevention and housing stabilization programs and supports the Department of Children and Families, including $2.5 million to address immediate training and staffing needs and $1 million for training for adoptive and foster families.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed a similar supplemental spending bill. The Senate and House will now produce a compromise bill for final passage and the Governor’s signature.