May 7th 2019 BOSTON – State Representative David K. Muradian, Jr., R-Grafton, joined with his House colleagues recently to approve a $42.7 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2020.
Engrossed on a vote of 154-1 on April 25th, the House spending plan includes significant funding increases for local aid to cities and towns, while foregoing any broad-based tax increases. It also calls for a $264 million deposit into the rainy day account, which will provide the state with more than $2.7 billion to mitigate future spending cuts in the event of an economic downturn.
The House budget provides a $218 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid, bringing the statewide total to $5.126 billion, while setting minimum per pupil aid at $30. An additional $1.1 billion has been allocated for unrestricted local aid to help support a wide range of municipal services, reflecting a $29.6 million increase over current fiscal year spending.
Representative Muradian noted that the House budget plan will provide Grafton with $11,108,735 in Chapter 70 education aid and $1,660,319 in unrestricted state aid. Northbridge will receive $15,603,931 in Chapter 70 education aid and $2,241,474 in unrestricted state aid, and Upton will receive $39,799 in Chapter 70 education aid and $565,358 in unrestricted state aid. During floor debate on the budget, Representative Muradian was also able to secure funding for several important local initiatives, including $5.5 million dollars for the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and $250,000 for early college pathways. He also secured $25,000 for the town of Grafton, $25,000 for the town of Northbridge and $25,000 for the town of Upton.
To address some of the funding equity concerns raised by the Foundation Budget Review Commission, the House budget sets aside $16.5 million to assist school districts serving a high percentage of low-income students. An additional $2 million has been allocated to the Supporting Healthy Alliances Reinforcing Education (SHARE) grant program, which will help schools address non-academic barriers to student success using community-based resources to improve access to social services and behavioral health providers.
Cities, towns and regional school districts will also see additional education funding under the House budget proposal, which contains:
- $328.8 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, a $9.5 million increase over current spending;
- $73.8 million for regional school transportation, a $4.9 million increase over current levels that will provide for an 80 percent reimbursement rate; and
- $113 million for charter school tuition reimbursements, an increase of $23 million.
To help individuals and families struggling with addiction, the House budget provides $143.9 million for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Addiction Services, which includes funding increases for five new recovery centers and the Massachusetts Access to Recovery services. The budget also includes $49.4 million for Substance Use Disorder Trust Fund, and provides EMS and ambulance companies with access to discounted prices on the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.
Several Republican-sponsored initiatives were also adopted as part of the budget, including:
- language directing the State Comptroller to transfer up to $10 million in net surplus funding the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund to assist cities and towns with their open space, affordable housing, and historic preservation efforts;
- a provision to increase the Conservation Land Tax Credit’s annual cap from $2 million to $5 million over a three-year period to encourage the permanent protection of conservation land;
- an $85,000 appropriation for the NEADS Assistance Dogs for Veterans program to train service dogs for veterans; and
- a $500,000 increase for the Healthy Incentives Program, which provides funding assistance to help low-income residents purchase fresh produce from local farmers, bringing the program’s total appropriation to $4.5 million.
Other budget highlights include:
- $17.9 million in funding for local Councils on Aging;
- the creation of a task force to study the financial stability of Massachusetts nursing homes, following the recent closing of several facilities and warnings by the Massachusetts Senior Care Association that up to 35 additional facilities are at risk of closing this year;
- a $35 million supplemental rate increase for nursing homes; and
- the implementation of the Division of Marine Fisheries’ recommendation to permit the possession, sale and processing of lobster parts in Massachusetts.
The budget now moves to the Senate, which is expected to release its own spending proposal on May 8.