BOSTON – State Representative Marc Lombardo, R-Billerica, joined with hi scolleagues this week to approve the FY17 state budget for the new fiscal year that begins on July 1. The spending plan passed the House of Representatives on a vote of 150-3.
The final budget represents a 2.6% increase from the FY16 state budget . The budget reflects a $413 million reduction in proposed spending due to a projected $750 million revenue shortfall for Fiscal Year 2017. As a result, many state agencies will be level-funded at their current spending levels in the new fiscal year.
Despite this reduction, the budget provides for a $116.1 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid, bringing the statewide total to $4.6 billion while providing for a $55 per pupil increase. It also includes $1.02 billion in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), representing an increase of $42.1 million, or 4.3%, over current funding levels.
“The state is facing many significant financial challenges, but this budget ensures that local aid remains a priority,” said Representative Lombardo. “I’m proud that I was able to be first for Billerica in the state budget. With local aid and chapter 70 education funding increases, funds for the bike path, and money for Shawsheen Tech’s capital field project, Billerica was well served in the budget and I am excited to have helped make that happen”.
Representative Lombardo noted that Billerica is scheduled to receive $18,904,494 in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $283,910 over last year. Billerica will also receive $5,598,864 in unrestricted aid to help fund a variety of essential municipal services, which is an increase of $230,826 from FY16.
In addition to the local aid increase, Representative Lombardo was able to successfully secure $50,000 in the budget to fund the Yankee Doodle Bike Path in Billerica and $25,000 for Shawsheen Valley Technical High School recreational fields.
The budget includes $80.5 million for charter school reimbursements and $61 million for regional school transportation. It also fully funds reimbursements under the Special Education Circuit Breaker program at $277.3 million.
Other funding increases of note contained in the budget include:
· a $27.5 million increase in funding for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS);
· a $33.1 million increase for the Department of Children and Families to support over 600 recent hires, including 281 new hires for Fiscal Year 2017;
· a $43.7 million increase for the Department of Developmental Services, which includes a $6.9 million increase for respite family services to assist an additional 3,000 families; and
· a $1.19 million increase in local Councils on Aging grants, which will provide for an increase in the funding formula to $10 per elder per year.
The budget also funds several substance abuse initiatives, including $3.1 million for Recovery High Schools, $1 million for the Substance Abuse Trust Fund, $1 million for the Attorney General to fund programs targeting opioid abuse, and $3 million for medication assisted therapy in emergency rooms. Overall, the budget provides $139.2 million for opioid abuse funding, representing a $23.6 million increase over current funding levels.
For the second year in a row, the budget does not draw money from the Rainy Day Fund. However, a planned $200 million deposit into the fund will no longer take place, due to an expected drop in capital gains tax revenues.
The budget takes additional steps to address the revenue shortfall, including:
· cutting Medicaid spending by $142 million, in part by reducing caseloads and deferring some payments until Fiscal Year 2018; and
· authorizing the use of “procurement efficiencies” to generate $100 million in additional savings.
The budget also includes language to bring Massachusetts into compliance with the federal REAL ID Act, which requires state driver’s licenses to meet certain minimum mandatory security standards. Massachusetts is currently operating on an extension that is due to expire in October. Without these changes, a Massachusetts driver’s license would no longer be considered an acceptable form of identification for entering a federal building beginning in 2018 or boarding a commercial aircraft beginning in 2020.
The budget proposal, which has also passed the Senate, is now before Governor Charlie Baker for his review. Governor Baker has until July 10 to sign the budget and issue any vetoes.
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