Last week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a $40.4 billion FY18 budget which represents a commitment to fiscal responsibility. The spending bill protects vulnerable residents through investments in early education and care (EEC), substance addiction initiatives, homelessness programs, and funding to help individuals with developmental disabilities.
This budget takes comprehensive action to promote sustained economic health in Massachusetts as we face uncertainty on the national level. For the fourth year in a row, the House budget reduces Massachusetts’ reliance on one-time revenue. It includes a $100 million deposit to the stabilization fund which will result in projected balance of more than $1.4 billion and help preserve the state’s AA+ bond rating, the highest in the Commonwealth’s history.
“This budget extends the House’s legacy of balancing fiscal responsibility with investments in inventive programs, a strategy that has resulted in Massachusetts becoming a national leader,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop).
The FY18 budget makes unprecedented investments to improve Massachusetts’ early education and care system, with a focus on supporting the EEC workforce and providing access to high-quality learning opportunities to ensure children are better prepared for academic success. In response to the findings of Speaker DeLeo’s EEC Business Advisory Group, the budget provides $20 million for the early educator rate reserve and $4 million for quality programming and workforce training. The House also builds on its notable commitment to behavioral health by doubling funding for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation grant to help early detection and prevention efforts.
Recognizing that municipalities have unique and diverse needs, the House continues to fund local aid at historic levels. This budget increases Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by $40 million and local education aid (Chapter 70) by $106 million. The increase to Chapter 70 guarantees that every school district will receive a minimum of $30 per pupil in FY18. The budget also begins to implement the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations by making adjustments to more accurately reflect employee health benefits through a $31 million investment. It also adds $4 million to the special education circuit breaker and increases our investment in regional school transportation by $1 million.
The House, under the leadership of Chairman Dempsey who has put an emphasis on providing increased access to permanent housing options, has proven effective at combatting homelessness in Massachusetts. For example, the caseload for hotels and motels is expected to zero out by the end of this fiscal year and projections indicate that caseloads for emergency assistance will return to pre-recession levels. The House’s spending plan invests $18 million in new funding for homelessness including:
- $100 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program;
- $15 million for residential assistance for families in transition;
- $6.5 million for the Department of Mental Health rental assistance;
- $46.2 for homeless individuals.
After healthcare spending and local aid, the budget for developmental services receives the largest increase in the House’s spending bill. Given the growing and changing need for developmental services this budget funds a $87 million increase bringing spending to more than $1.9 billion for these critical programs.
On the resources allocated to health and human services, Representative Jeffrey Sánchez (D- Jamaica Plain) commented, “This will make a difference in the lives of Massachusetts residents. There is a lot of uncertainty in Washington D.C. right now. These targeted investments will ensure valuable services are provided in our communities as we continue to be thoughtful about Massachusetts next steps.”
The budget will now go to the Senate for its consideration.