Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Friday, July 9, I voted in the affirmative on the $48.1 Billion FY22 Budget.
Despite the fiscal rollercoaster of the past 16-months, the Commonwealth is on a strong path towards recovery and is able to make meaningful investments in our future. New revenue projections indicate Massachusetts is recovering, thus enabling the Commonwealth to invest in in critical programs related to the public education, public health, individuals with disabilities, the environment, women’s rights, economic development, and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Student Opportunity Act and Chapter 70 + Local Aid
Due to the economic challenges and uncertainty from the COVID-19 public health crisis, last year’s budget level-funded local aid and Chapter 70. Given new revenue projections, the FY22 budget increases local aid by 3.5% and fully funds 1/6 of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA), keeping the state on track to complement implement the landmark public education fund legislation by FY 2027. This budget also directs $350 million into a new Student Opportunity Trust Fund to set aside funds to ensure SOA implementation in future years.
In March of 2020, before the state of emergency, the House unanimously passed legislation I co-filed, An Act Relative to Strengthening the Local and Regional Public Health System (the SAPHE Act). Now signed into law, this legislation promotes collaboration between local boards of health and municipal public health departments to strengthen the delivery of public health services in the Commonwealth. Our budget supports local and regional public health by including $15 million for grants to local and regional boards of health. This will fund the state action for public health excellence program, which is already supporting local public health in Needham, Medfield and Dover, while building the foundation to prepare for future public health emergencies in the Commonwealth.
I worked to secure funds to support $301K in local public health, voting access, and water quality initiatives in Needham, Dover, and Medfield. In Needham, the FY22 budget will support local priorities including funding for, the Needham Public Health Department to seek accreditation, a feasibility study on retrofitting the kitchen at the Center at the Heights, and for BID-Needham to bring on a contracted mental health clinician for its behavioral health and emergency departments, which is critically important as it has seen an influx of patients since the closure of Norwood Hospital. In Medfield, the Town received funding for updated voting machines. And in Dover, to support the Town and its residents in addressing water concerns, we secured funding for a Water Resource Consultant.
A key priority I supported during the pandemic was to sustain human services providers as day programs closed and a great deal of responsibilities shifted to virtual and residential programs. This budget makes further investments into supports for individuals with disabilities and their families. To support community day and work programs as they welcome back individuals according to new public health guidelines, this budget increases funding for the Department of Developmental Services program and transportation services. To continuing expanding our workforce and creating more opportunities in our future for individuals with disabilities, we established a tax credit for businesses that employ an individual with a disability for a minimum of eighteen consecutive months – further creating employment opportunities in the Commonwealth and expanding our workforce.
The Commonwealth continues its commitment to protecting our environment and preparing for our climate future through this budget. Notably, it includes $50.5 million for state parks, which reflects the increase in the use of the parks during the COVID-19 public health emergency. This budget also increases funding for the Department of Environmental Protection and the Division of Ecological restoration.
As we prepare for our climate future, job training for growing industries is critical in keeping Massachusetts competitive. To promote this, this budget dedicated $13 million to job training for the offshore wind industry to ensure we continue to prepare our workforce for the changing technology.
In 2017, I voted for the ACCESS bill, which improved access to contraceptive options and eliminated copays for birth control. This budget funds a public awareness campaign on the ACCESS Law so everyone is aware of the reproductive freedom this law ensures, including your right to a 12-month supply of copay-free birth control.
Film Tax Credit
Over the last decade, Massachusetts has become a popular film location that has created film jobs and supported local businesses and economies in Needham, Medfield and across the Commonwealth. To support future productions in Massachusetts, this budget removes the 2023 sunset date on the Film Tax Credit and requires that 75% of production’s budgets or filming days be spent in Massachusetts. This will allow this industry to create stability in the Commonwealth and continue to grow.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In 2020, our nation was forced to face the systematic racism that drastically harms communities of color. In response to this, the House has led many initiatives to promote racial equity in the Commonwealth. This budget continues this work by establishing the Permanent Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to be a resource to the Commonwealth on issues affecting Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. To combat hate, the Legislature has increased funding to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination to $4.2 million and established a task force on hate crimes to advise on issues relating to hate crimes, ways to prevent hate crimes, and how to be support victims.
As we recover from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, this budget makes significant investments into the future of the Commonwealth to ensure we continue to lead and are prepared for future economic downturns. This budget reflects the strong fiscal health of the Commonwealth, as we were able to invest in these programs and situate ourselves for a strong recovery without increasing revenue sources during the pandemic.
Yours in Service,
State Representative Denise C. Garlick
Needham, Dover, and Medfield (Precincts 1 & 2)