Today, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed the FY17 Close Out Supplemental Budget. This budget will ensure balance for FY17 and stems from working closely with the Administration and members of House to make sure we understood the current financial picture.
To achieve that balance, the House authorized $124.7M in spending, including $76.3M to close the books on FY17 spending, and $48.4M previously appropriated in FY17 that will be carried over into FY18.
Notably, this budget includes $4.75M to ensure full funding of the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative grant program. SSYI is a community-based initiative that combines public health and public safety approaches to eliminate serious violence among high-risk youth. We can show our commitment and support for programs like this and keep the Commonwealth and sound fiscal footing. We will continue to monitor fiscal trends, including monthly revenue collections and the status of the economy here in Massachusetts.
The supplemental budget also includes several time-sensitive policy sections, many of which are necessary to close the FY17 books.
Bump Stock Ban
The House approved an amendment that would ban the sale and possession of bump stocks in Massachusetts. What we saw last week in Las Vegas was horrific. While we cannot bring those precious lives back, today’s bump stock ban prevents another tragedy from taking place in Massachusetts, and builds on past legislation promoting sensible gun safety in the Commonwealth. Bump stocks, which are used to alter an otherwise legal fireman to increase the rate of discharge, were not banned in Massachusetts’ 2014 gun safety legislation. The ban would go into effect 6 months from the day the bill is signed into law.
CORI Gaming Correction
The House took a step forward in our journey to criminal justice reform by increasing access to job opportunities for those with a CORI. This section clarifies the statute’s original intent by providing the MA Gaming Commission the discretion to determine which gaming service employees may be disqualified for employment due to certain CORI offenses.
This change is necessary because both the MGM Casino in Springfield and Wynn Boston Harbor in Everett are beginning their hiring processes. Current restrictions could impact their ability to be adequately staffed, and would prevent individuals from accessing those jobs. As we begin to address criminal justice reform, employment opportunities are an important tool in the fight reduce recidivism. This language will help us accomplish that goal.
EMAC Compliance Form
The FY18 budget included a 2-tier employer contribution to health care. This assessment, known as Employer Medical Assistance Contribution (EMAC), must be implemented by January 1, 2018 in order to collect the $200M necessary to balance the FY18 budget. This contribution applies to every employer in the Commonwealth with 6 or more employees. Tier 1 is an increase of the existing EMAC, while the second tier is targeted at employers with employees on public programs.
In order to implement Tier 2, certain information must be collected from employers. The EMAC Compliance Form will be used to determine an employer’s liability as indicated by the number of employees receiving MassHealth or subsidized insurance through the Health Connector.
The information cannot be used to deny or terminate MassHealth benefits. It can only be used to implement Tier 2 of the employer contribution. Both the EMAC Compliance Form and the employer contribution sunset on December 31, 2019.
This supplemental budget now moves to the Massachusetts Senate for deliberation.