House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop), Senator Anthony Petruccelli (D-East Boston) and Representative RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere) joined their colleagues in the Legislature to enact a $38.145 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) which emphasizes economic growth, support for residents most in need, and reform of the state’s transportation system. The spending plan makes investments in local aid, education, and human services including an acute focus on behavioral health and substance abuse.
Building on a responsible yet proactive approach to bolstering the state’s economy, this year’s budget increases the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) while maintaining a voter-mandated tax reduction and without implementing new taxes or fees. For low-to-moderate households, EITC will increase to 23 percent on January 1, 2016. Increasing this credit is an effective way to fight stagnant wages and lift working families out of poverty.
“This budget demonstrates that through fiscal prudence and thoughtful investments we can achieve sustainable economic growth and set the standard for aiding citizens facing adversity,” said Speaker DeLeo. “I’m particularly proud of the measures in this spending plan that will make our local communities better places to live, work and raise a family like the safety and education initiatives.”
“The formation of our Commonwealth’s budget continues to remain one of the most important issues debated among the two branches,” said Senator Petruccelli. “I was proud to have worked alongside Senate President Rosenberg, Senate Leadership, Speaker DeLeo and Representative Vincent in an effort to fight and receive much needed state services that will directly benefit our community while making long term spending decisions that remain critical to improving the state’s fiscal health.”
“Given the difficult fiscal forecast at the beginning of the FY-16 budget discussions, I’m so very pleased that my colleagues and I in the legislature adopted a budget that makes sound fiscal investments in our communities,” said Representative Vincent. “It was a pleasure to work with Speaker DeLeo and Senator Petruccelli to ensure that many of Revere’s priorities were included in this budget. I thank them for their commitment to our great city, and I am proud that together, the three of us were able to secure funding in areas that are critical to our community.”
District priorities include:
- $175,000 for CAPIC’s Emergency Services Program;
- $500,000 for safety and tornado disaster relief funds;
- $500,000 provide mental health and substance abuse counselors in local school systems;
- $500,000 for the implementation of action plans and training to promote safe school environments;
- $1.2 million for SAFE (Student Awareness Fire Education);
- $25,000 for both Winthrop and Revere Chambers of Commerce;
- More than $1 million for Metropolitan Beaches;
- $250,000 for child safety grants for both Winthrop and Revere.
The budget takes immediate steps to address systemic management problems at the MBTA by including a series of reform tools including 3-year suspension of the statute governing the procurement of private services at the MBTA and:
- An MBTA fiscal management and control board within MassDOT that will have the power to implement measures to ensure financial, operational and managerial stability at the MBTA while operating within a unified state transportation network;
- An internal special audit unit within MassDOT to monitor quality, efficiency and integrity of the departments operating and capital programs;
- Streamlined accountability at the MBTA, including providing the Secretary of Transportation authority to appoint a General Manager for the MBTA.
To bolster accountability and transparency within the state’s transportation system, the law also increases the size of the MassDOT Board and makes the Secretary of Transportation chair of the Board. These updates follow two transportation reform plans accompanied by major funding increases the Legislature passed in 2009 and in 2013.
The FY16 budget targets the opioid crisis, strengthening behavioral health efforts enacted in last year’s budget and the landmark substance addiction law through several targeted investments. Many of the programs focus on co-occurring disorders and finding sustainable ways to aid in both prevention and recovery including:
- $3 million for new clinical stabilization beds to provide for treatment after detoxification;
- A municipal Naloxone bulk purchasing program to authorize the Department of Public Health to buy and distribute this critical intervention to first responders;
- A task force to study the feasibility of a prescription drug disposal program;
- $2.5 million to expand patient access to Vivitrol, a non-narcotic drug that blocks the effect of opiates or alcohol for a period of 30 days;
- $1.5 million to expand opioid prevention grants;
- $3.1 million for a new line item for Recovery High Schools, including $1 million to establish two new programs;
- More than $375 million for Adult Community Mental Health Services, $87 million for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and an additional $4 million for the Department of Mental Health to annualize and expand community placements to free up beds in the DMH pipeline.
This budget enhances the Commonwealth’s partnerships with cities and towns through numerous funding streams including almost $980 million to Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), a $34 million increase from FY15 and $4.5 billion for Chapter 70 (education funding). The spending plan fully funds Special Education Circuit Breaker in order to help districts meet the cost of educating students with disabilities, and provides $59 million to reimburse municipalities for Regional School Transportation costs.
In addition to educational investments through local aid, this year’s budget extends Massachusetts ongoing commitment to supporting and strengthening its educational systems to foster equality and provide residents with a competitive edge, including:
- $4 million to increase access to high-quality early education and care (EEC) for the Commonwealth’s youngest children through EEC program quality improvements, including support for workforce development and training opportunities for early educators;
- $12 million to serve an additional 2,000+ children on the income-eligible EEC waitlist and support working families;
- $95.6 million for the state’s Higher Education Scholarship to help eligible Massachusetts residents cover the cost of college;
- $750,000 for the Community College Workforce Training Incentive Grant Program to expand vocationally-oriented course offerings and support the work of Community Colleges in developing tomorrow’s workforce.
This year’s budget emphasizes the importance of enhanced fiscal predictability and sustainable investments, a practice that has raised Massachusetts bond rating to AA+, the highest in the state’s history. For the first time since 2007, the budget does not withdraw any funds from the Commonwealth’s stabilization fund, leaving the balance in excess of $1 billion.
Additional economic development measures include:
- MassCAN: $1.7 million to establish widespread, progressive computer science curriculum in public school through a public-private matching program;
- Talent Pipeline: $1.5 million to encourage young innovators to get a head start on their futures by matching stipends for interns at innovation start-ups, and to provide mentoring opportunities for new entrepreneurs;
- STEM Starter Academy: $4.75 million to promote STEM careers at the Commonwealth’s community colleges.
- $2 million for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership to address the shortfall of skilled workers and aid small and mid-sized manufacturing companies though technical assistance and consultant support;
- $1.2 million for a new Training Resources and Internship Networks (TRAIN) grant program, a partnership with community colleges to specifically target the long-term unemployed and provide them with training and internship opportunities and the chance to fill resume gaps.
Included in the budget is a provision that protects taxpayer dollars from being spent on the 2024 Olympics, which also includes tax incentives, for the Games if they come to Massachusetts. The provision requires Boston 2024 to formally request funding from the Legislature for any specific project and make their case during a formal hearing.