Senate Ways and Means Releases FY 2020 Budget Recommendations

The Committee’s budget strengthens Massachusetts’ commitment to being a national leader in ensuring children of all backgrounds have access to greater educational opportunities.  Consistent with the Senate’s long-standing commitment to supporting increased investments in education, this budget makes a significant down payment on the work of the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC), and funds Chapter 70 at its highest level ever; $5.176B, an increase of $268.4M over FY 2019. 

This historic education investment allows for a minimum aid increase of at least $30 per pupil over FY 2019 for every school district across the state, as well as 100% effort reduction to bring all school districts to their target local contribution.  With this record level of investment, this budget focuses on school districts with the most pressing needs and addresses four key areas identified by the FBRC: employee health benefits, special education, English language learners, and low-income students in economically disadvantaged communities.  Consequentially, the budget also includes $345M for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate. Education investments include:

 

  • $5.176B for Chapter 70 education funding
  • $345M to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker, an increase of $25.7M over FY 2019
  • $73.8M to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs
  • $100M to reimburse school districts for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
  • $2M for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative to support high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 with access to higher education opportunities $558M for the University of Massachusetts, $293.2M for the fifteen community colleges, and $274M for the nine state universities
  • $12M for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families
  • $7.5M for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to preschool in underserved areas

The Committee’s budget continues Massachusetts’ leadership in keeping health care accessible and affordable, increasing resources, making investments to deliver services to our most vulnerable residents, and ensuring the well-being of individuals and families.

The budget funds MassHealth at a total of $16.55B to maintain access to affordable health care coverage for over 1.8 million people, ensuring comprehensive care for our most vulnerable children, seniors and low income residents.  In an effort to contain program costs and keep health care affordable and accessible to all, the budget takes many steps including providing MassHealth with additional tools to tackle the rapidly growing cost of pharmaceutical drugs by permitting the Secretary of Health and Human Services to directly negotiate for fair and additional rebates or cost effective payment arrangements with pharmaceutical manufacturers.  The budget also explores new and creative cost savings initiatives for MassHealth to purchase prescription drugs and requires greater transparency from pharmacy benefit managers. Health investments include:

 

  • $10M for the new Behavioral Health, Outreach, Access and Support Trust Fund to support a loan forgiveness initiative for behavioral health workers and a general public awareness campaign
  • $150.2M for a range of substance abuse treatment and intervention services, including $3.5M in new funding to open five new recovery centers
  • $5M for investments in the substance use disorder workforce, including training on medication management, medication-assisted treatment and treatment of co-occurring disorders
  • $93.4M for children’s mental health services, including $3.9M for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Program (MCPAP) and $675K for MCPAP for Moms to address mental health needs of pregnant and postpartum women
  • $16.5M for Family Resource Centers to expand to new communities and meet increased demand for services
  • $489M for Adult Support Services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
  • $25M to fully fund Department of Developmental Services Turning 22 services to help young people with disabilities transition to adulthood

The Committee’s budget invests in programs and policies to educate, train, and prepare Massachusetts workers in order to provide them with opportunities to grow and succeed.  The budget also supports working families by investing $13M to ensure over 8,700 families with children will receive the transitional assistance benefits to which they are entitled. Opportunity investments include:

 

  • $38.1M for adult basic education services to improve access to skills and tools necessary to join the workforce
  • $14.4M for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth
  • $7M for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs
  • $2.5M for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative Innovation Institute
  • $2.5M for the Precision Manufacturing Program
  • $2M for Small Business Technical Assistance grants
  • $2M for the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership
  • $1M for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state

The Committee’s budget maintains the Senate’s commitment to increasing access to quality, affordable housing, investing over $495M in low-income housing and homelessness services and supports. Housing investments include:

 

  • $178M for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters
  • $110M for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
  • $48.3M for assistance for homeless individuals
  • $30.8M for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs
  • $20M for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), including $3M to continue expanding eligibility for individuals in need, including persons with disabilities, seniors, unaccompanied youth
  • $8M for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) providing rental assistance to people with disabilities and $2.7M for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
  • $5M for housing and supportive services for unaccompanied homeless youth

The FY 2020 budget furthers regional equity and supports cities and towns by directing significant resources to local and regional aid.  This includes increased funding for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to $90.5M and ties future funding to inflation, while incentivizing RTAs to adopt best practices to ensure that commuters, students, seniors and people with disabilities are able to rely on public transportation to access jobs, education and opportunity.  In addition to traditional local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $30M.  PILOT funding has been a beneficial source of local aid that provides cities and towns with additional resources to support core public services. Local investments include:

 

  • $1.129B for unrestricted general government aid to support community investments in education, health care, public safety and roads and bridges
  • $29.1M for the Board of Library Commissioners, $11.5M for regional library local aid, $9.9M for municipal libraries and $3.3M for technology and automated resources
  • $17M for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives
  • $16.8M for local Councils on Aging to strengthen programs and services in senior centers in communities across the state.

Senators can file amendments to the Senate Ways and Means recommendations until Friday, May 10th, at 12 p.m.  The full Senate will then debate the Fiscal Year 2020 budget in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 21st.  The FY 2020 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.