By John Lynds
After being sworn in on Thursday, May 18, Sen. Joseph Boncore (D-Winthrop) has hit the ground running.
Boncore, who won the seat during a special election to replace former Sen. Anthony Petruccelli, was able to secure funding to battle opioid abuse in the district, voted to supported the Fair Share Amendment and later cast his vote on the Fiscal Year 2017 budget.
During the budget debate, Boncore took the opportunity to make his maiden speech and advocated in support of funding for additional mental health and substance abuse services at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. Following his remarks, the Senate adopted Boncore’s amendment providing $250,000 for an integrated behavioral health program at the Health Center.
“The opioid crisis has touched all corners of Massachusetts, but has had a particularly hard impact on the communities of the First Suffolk and Middlesex,” said Boncore. “By adopting my amendment the Senate has ensured patients will be able to move seamlessly from their primary care providers to addiction specialists, providing access to necessary treatment models.”
Boncore voted in favor of the Senate’s adoption of a $39.558 billion budget for FY17. The budget focuses on investing in local aid, education, children’s health and safety, housing, health and human services, workforce training and economic development.
Included in the budget was $216 million for local aid and $292 million Chapter 70 funding for the communities of the First Suffolk and Middlesex like Winthrop.
The Senate included landmark language to overhaul the Chapter 70 formula to fund Massachusetts school districts more fairly and adequately in the future. The new formula better accounts for school districts’ rising health insurance costs and the high cost of educating students with special needs, English Language Learners and low income students. The budget also establishes a task force to identify the most accurate way of counting low income students.
In his first vote as a member of the Senate, Boncore supported the Fair Share Amendment, that was passed in the Senate. The amendment will assess an additional four percent surtax on individual annual income over one million dollars. The amendment would require the legislature to allocate the increased revenue solely on education and transportation needs.
According to the amendment any income less $1,000,000 will remain at the current state income tax rate of 5.1 percent. Department of Revenue estimates that the proposed amendment would raise between $1.4 to $2.2 billion annually for education and transportation needs.
“In my first vote as a Senator, I am proud to have stood by working families as we raise new revenue for transportation and education in the Commonwealth,” said Boncore. “This amendment is a step toward creating an equitable tax code for the residents of the First Suffolk and Middlesex.”