Prioritizes education, environment, and supporting vulnerable residents
Last week, Representative Denise C. Garlick (D-Needham), in her first budget as Vice Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means, joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives to pass its Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) budget, which invests in programs and services across the state. Funded at $42.7 billion, the House budget makes major investments in education, the environment, substance use disorder services, health care, and other areas while projecting a more than $200 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund – bringing the fund’s balance to more than $2.5 billion to safeguard the future of vital programs and services.
“The commitment of each and every Representative to the concerns and issues of the people of their district informed the process at every step,” said Representative Garlick. “Massachusetts leads in many areas, and this budget continues to strengthen our state through effective investments and thoughtful policy on the issues that reflect our shared values: responsibility to vulnerable populations, commitment to energy and the environment, and dedication to ensuring equitable, quality education for every child. Presently, our Commonwealth is strong and our future is bright.”
In addition to state-wide initiatives, the House budget included 13th Norfolk District specific priorities, including over $300,000 for:
- Security and accessibility improvements at the Center for the Heights in Needham;
- A planning and design study for the intersection of Route 27 and West Street in Medfield;
- A Medfield State Hospital technical assistance planning study; and
- Safety equipment at the Dover Fire Department.
The House continues to further its commitment to cities and towns by increasing local aid (Unrestricted General Government Aid) by nearly $30 million and providing $5.1 billion in Chapter 70 education funding as part of a $236 million increase for investments in schools over Fiscal Year 2019. In addition, the budget includes a $16.5 million reserve for low-income students as a down payment while the Joint Committee on Education continues its work to address school funding formula changes. It also provides $2 million to establish the Supporting Health Alliances Reinforcing Education (SHARE) grant program to address non-academic barriers to school success through wraparound behavioral health services and provides $1 million for a grant program to promote digital literacy and computer science education in public schools. Additional education allocations include:
- $328 million for Circuit Breaker Special Education reimbursement;
- $113 million for Charter School Reimbursement; and
- $73.8 million for Regional School Transportation reimbursement.
The House budget continues its commitment to ensuring children have access to high-quality early education and care (EEC). The budget invests in those who work with children by increasing rates for early education providers by $20 million and supporting continuing education opportunities with community colleges. The House budget also includes additional investments into Head Start grants and quality improvement measures in core EEC programming.
The budget continues the Legislature’s commitment to fight the opioid epidemic – a public health crisis that has touched nearly every household across the Commonwealth. Building off the passage of last session’s opioid bill, of which Representative Garlick was a key author, the House budget includes investments to implement new policies, including:
- $15 million to provide Medication-Assisted Treatment at Houses of Corrections and at state Department of Corrections facilities;
- $200,000 for the Community Behavioral Health Promotion & Prevention Trust fund, which will fund grants to promote positive mental, emotional, and behavioral health among children and young adults, and to prevent substance use disorders among children and young adults; and
- $500,000 for the Center for Police Training in Crisis Intervention, which will support cost-effective, evidence-based mental health and substance use crisis response training programs for public safety personnel.
To help those in need, the House budget gives all EMS and ambulance companies access to discounted naloxone, making it more available for use in the field. In addition, the budget includes:
- $143.9 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, which will help create five new recovery centers across Massachusetts;
- $49.4 million for the Substance Use Disorder Trust Fund; and
- $1.5 million increases for Massachusetts Access to Recovery Services.
The House calls for over $282 million in spending for environmental programs. These funding levels will ensure that state monitors and maintains the needs of its parks and environmental protections programs and enable agencies to hire scientists, inspectors, permit writers, and park rangers. It will also ensure that Massachusetts is prepared to overcome the effects of climate change. These investments include:
- $46 million for State Parks and Recreation;
- $61 million for the Department of Environmental Protection; and
- $1.5 million for Watershed Protection.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the budget will be increasing the Commonwealth’s contribution into the Community Preservation Act, which will ensure that over $36 million more will be distributed to projects all across the Commonwealth and will help raise the state’s match up to 30 percent for investments in open space, affordable housing and historic preservation. Community Preservation Act funds were crucial to the renovation of Needham town Hall.
The House budget includes funding for public safety and the judiciary, including investments to implement last session’s criminal justice reform law. The budget includes:
- $8.8 million for a new community-based re-entry program; and
- $24 million for civil legal aid to provide representation for low-income individuals
MassHealth is the single largest investment that the Commonwealth makes in its most vulnerable residents. This program provides health insurance for the frailest amongst us: the homeless, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the recovering, mothers with children, and the working poor. In addition to funding this key safety net program, the budget also ensures funding for crucial health and human services agencies and providers including:
- $233 million for community day and work programs at the Department of Developmental Services
- $109.8 million to continue reforms that protect children at the Department of Children and Families;
- $4.5 million for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP), which provides a dollar-for-dollar match to SNAP recipients to purchase produce at farmers markets; and
- $35 million increase in the supplemental rates for nursing homes across the Commonwealth and an emergency task force aimed at helping to bring stability to the industry.
Fully funds the Lift the Cap on Kids initiative that removes barriers that prevent families from receiving Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits for certain children.
As the former Chair of the Elder Affairs Committee, Representative Garlick worked to ensure support for older adults throughout Massachusetts, whether they are aging at home or in a nursing facility. The House budget also includes policy increasing eligibility to the Medicare Savings Program for nearly 25,000 low-income seniors to help pay for Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. The House budget also includes:
- $17.9 million towards the Councils on Aging (fully funds $12/elder)
- $9.7 million for Elder Nutrition Services (including Meals on Wheels); and
The House budget represents some of the biggest increases seen in a generation when it comes to housing and homelessness funding. Access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing is essential and provides the foundation from which families and individuals can lead successful lives. This year, the House continues these efforts by providing:
- $110 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP);
- $72 million for Public Housing Subsidies;
- $7.2 million for Alternative Housing Voucher Program; and
- $53.4 million for Homeless individual shelters.
Building off of the civic education bill passed last session, the House budget provides $1 million in funding for a public-private partnership to expand civics education learning opportunities, including investments in curriculum and technology.
The House budget also allocates $2.5 million to a program designed to help the state accurately count all of its residents as part of the 2020 Census, an investment that is necessary in light of diminished federal resources for the decennial population count. The U.S. Census is used to determine not just the number of seats Massachusetts has in Congress, but also its share of federal, per-capita funding. Massachusetts receives about $16 billion in federal funds each year in the areas of health care, housing, and food and nutrition programs.
Representative Garlick, as the Vice Chair of Ways and Means, will stay active in the subsequent steps of the budget process.