On July 18, I voted YES to send the legislature’s final FY23 budget to the Governor’s desk.
The FY23 budget process kicked off back in December 2021, when economists told us how much revenue they anticipated the state would take in during fiscal year 2023, which is called the “consensus revenue estimate.” (Remember, Massachusetts must produce a balanced budget.)
Now eight months later, after a series of hearings, the House and the Senate’s respective budget debates on hundreds of amendments, and the reconciliation of the House and Senate budgets by a conference committee, we have arrived at a final budget.
Below I’ll break down some of the spending in this $52.7 billion budget.
You can see the full list of amendments I worked on during Senate debate and the funding I was able to secure for the district here. Until the conference committee finished its work, I couldn’t be sure that all of this funding would be retained, but when I read the conference committee’s final budget I was thrilled that all of the funding that I secured through amendments was included in the final bill.
The budget that the legislature sent to the Governor on Monday makes the following vital investments in state programs:
Fulfills its promise to K-12 schools
Delivering on our promise to stay the course and implement the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by FY 2027, the FY23 budget includes nearly $6 billion in Chapter 70 funding — an increase of $495 million over FY22 — and doubles minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil, recognizing the challenges facing 135 “minimum aid” districts that would have received only a $30 per student increase over the previous year. Chapter 70 is the major program of state aid to public elementary and secondary schools. This historic level of investment ensures the state remains on schedule to fully implement the law, provides school districts with resources to provide high quality educational opportunities, and addresses rising costs and administrative challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With this record level of investment, along with transferring $150 million to the Student Opportunity Act Investment fund, bringing its balance up to $500 million, we remain well positioned to deliver on the promise of high-quality public education.
Rural School Aid is funded at $5.5 million in the budget, providing rural school assistance to eligible towns and regional school districts. I support increasing this investment in rural schools and will keep fighting.
The budget level funds regional school transportation at $82.1 million, representing a reimbursement rate of 85% of DESE’s estimated costs for FY23. The budget also fully funds the McKinney-Vento account for transportation of homeless students at $22.9 million, and level funds out-of-district vocational transportation at $250,000. I recognize that 85% investment is not the promised 100% reimbursement for regional school transportation and I’ll keep fighting.
Boosts local aid and preserves open space in local communities
The FY23 budget includes $1.231 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $63 million over FY22, and $45 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land, an increase of $10 million over FY22, providing cities and town with necessary resources to provide essential services to their constituents. These were among our team’s top municipal priorities.
The budget also directs the comptroller to transfer $20 million of the fiscal year 2022 budget surplus to the Massachusetts Community Preservation Trust Fund through an amendment my team and I filed. This provision would increase the state’s match from an estimated 35% to 43%, approximately the same state match percentage as fiscal year 2022. The number of CPA communities has reached 187, and this budget item will benefit cities and towns that have adopted higher local property taxes to address environmental and housing challenges.
Makes historic investments in early education and child care
The FY23 budget provides historic levels of funding in early education that will both help stabilize the sector and strengthen it. Early education investments include:
- $250 million for the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants, stabilizing the early education and care sector by supporting critical operational and workforce needs of providers
- $175 million for a newly created High-Quality Education and Care Affordability Fund, to be utilized in the coming years to support the implementation of initiatives to promote a high-quality education and care system and recommendations made by the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission
- $60 million in rate increases for subsidized child care providers
- $31.5 million for expanded access to Head Start programming and preschool opportunities for children and low-income families in underserved areas
- $15 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to pre-kindergarten and preschool opportunities in underserved areas
- $25 million to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape
Supports families struggling with the rising cost of living
The FY23 budget includes many supports for low-income families struggling to afford the basics in the face of increasing costs. These include:
- Increasing the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) annual child clothing allowance to $400 per child, so eligible families can buy clothes for the upcoming year
- A 10% increase to TAFDC and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefit levels, compared to June 2022, providing much needed cash assistance for families, elders and persons with disabilities
- $115 million for a year-long extension of universal school meals, providing immediate relief to working families by saving them up to $1,200 every year
- $30.6 million for Emergency Food Assistance to ensure that citizens in need can navigate the historic levels of food insecurity caused by COVID-19
- $28.5 million for the YouthWorks jobs program to fund over 6,000 summer and year-round jobs for youth in low-wage-earning and fixed-income families
- $20 million for the Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) to maintain access to healthy food options for households in need
- $7.5 million for grants to community foundations to support communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic
- $3.5 million for the Massachusetts Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma
- $4.1 million for Children’s Advocacy Centers to improve the resources available to children who have been neglected or sexually abused
Takes a multi-pronged approach to community-based mental health and substance use disorder services in the Commonwealth
The FY23 budget invests:
- $218.2 million for substance use disorder and intervention services provided by the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services
- $113 million for children’s mental health services
- $75.3 million for sexual assault and domestic violence prevention services
- $28.3 million for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families
- $20 million for the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives
- $15 million for emergency department diversion initiatives for children, adolescents, and adults
- $8.2 million to support student behavioral health services at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges
- $6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants (SEL) to help K-12 schools bolster SEL supports for students, including $1 million for a new pilot program to provide mental health screening for K-12 kids
In addition, the FY23 budget confronts the mental health crisis in Massachusetts head on by investing $218.2 for substance use disorder and intervention services provided by the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services and creating the Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Intervention Trust Fund, which will fund crisis supports and a new behavioral health crisis hotline.
The budget also expands a pilot for medically-assisted treatment of opioid use disorder from five sheriff’s departments to all 14 sheriff’s departments.
Continues the Commonwealth’s commitment to equitable investment in health care services
Recognizing that health care makes up more than 40 percent of our annual state budget, the FY23 budget sustains support for the state’s safety net by funding MassHealth at a total of $19.48 billion, ensuring over 2.1 million people with continued access to comprehensive health care services. The budget prepares for the transition of individuals from MassHealth to the Health Connector when the federal public health emergency ends by providing $50 million for a Connector Care Pilot Program, which utilizes savings from the American Rescue Plan to fund subsidized health insurance plans for members that are between 300%-500% of the federal poverty level (FPL) for two years. It also invests $73 million to expand eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program to 225% FPL.
The budget invests in the human services workforce who provide services to the state’s most vulnerable residents, including $230 million for Chapter 257 rates for health and human service workers, $40 million to continue higher rate add-ons and ensure a smaller wage cliff between FY22 and FY23 for home health aides and homemakers, and $1 million for the Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development program. Additional investments include funding for programming such as the Elder Mental Health Outreach Teams, the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative Expansion, nine Elder Supportive Housing Sites, and the SHINE Program. Chapter 257 has been a front-burning human service priority since my early days in office, thanks to stellar advocacy from constituents.
Other health care and public health investments include:
- $48.8 million for early intervention services, to ensure increased supports for families with infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities
- $15 million for grants to support local and regional boards of health, continuing our efforts to build upon the successful State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) Program
Sends a strong and unequivocal message that the rights of women and the LGBTQ community will be protected in the Commonwealth
The FY23 budget includes $2 million in grants for improvements to reproductive health access, infrastructure, and safety, ensuring health care providers remain protected in the face of growing legal uncertainty across the nation.
The budget includes over $2.75 million in funding for LGBTQ initiatives, ensuring access to gender affirming health care, youth-at-risk programming, and stable housing.
Additionally, the budget includes a provision establishing a veteran equality review board to ensure that veterans dishonorably discharged under ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ receive state-based veterans’ benefits.
Makes significant investments in housing stability and homelessness programs
The FY23 budget includes significant resources for housing stability programs to keep individuals and families in their homes and assistance to help those experiencing homelessness, including:
- $219.4 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters
- $210 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)
- $175 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
- $110 million for shelters for homeless individuals
- $92 million for assistance to local housing authorities
The budget also upholds the emergency-level maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive at $10,000 and requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to study and report on the execution of no-fault evictions between 2019 and 2022. The budget also moves to a more generous payment standard for the MRVP program to help families better afford their rent.
Requires no-cost calls for incarcerated people and prohibits marked-up costs for basic items
The FY23 budget removes barriers to communication services for incarcerated persons and their loved ones, requiring the Department of Correction (DOC), sheriffs and the Department of Youth Services (DYS) to provide phone calls, video calls, and other electronic communications free of charge to the callers.
The budget also includes a new requirement that commissary items, such as food or hygiene products, in correctional facilities shall not be sold at more than three percent over the purchase cost.
Finally, the budget also eliminates probation and parole fees, reducing the burden on individuals during their re-entry process.
Invests in higher education and expands access to opportunities for students with disabilities
The FY23 budget invests significantly in higher education, allocating $670 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $352 million for community colleges, and $328 million for state universities. The budget also includes $175 million in scholarship funding and funds the community colleges SUCCESS Fund at $14 million and the STEM Starter Academy at $4.75 million.
The budget includes provisions expanding access to inclusive higher education opportunities for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities by removing existing barriers.
To ensure full inclusion, students with disabilities would not be required to pass the MCAS, have a high school diploma, meet high school course requirements, or take college entrance exams in order to access inclusive academic, social, and career development opportunities on public higher education campuses with their peers.
In addition, the budget codifies the existing Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative (MAICEI) grant program, which supports school districts and public institutions of higher education partnering together to offer inclusive educational options for students with disabilities.
The budget also includes $4 million in resources to support expanded learning options for this diverse student population, including $1.5 million into a new Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Initiative Trust Fund.
Bolsters post-pandemic economic development and jobs in the Commonwealth
To meet the needs of our Commonwealth’s post-pandemic recovery, the FY23 budget invests more than $100 million to bolster job training programs, help connect unemployed and under-employed people with higher paying jobs and support career services that help students gain skills to apply for future jobs. The budget includes $20 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase the skilled worker population’s access to career technical training opportunities, a $17 million transfer to the Workforce Competitiveness Trust fund, and $15 million for one-stop career centers to support economic recovery. The budget also includes a $1 million investment in Learn to Earn and $1 million for the 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund.
Other investments in economic and workforce development include:
- $60 million for Adult Basic Education
- $20 million for the Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program
- $20 million for a loan forgiveness program within the Department of Mental Health to support their workforce
- $15 million to support teachers of color, including $7.5 million for Tomorrow’s Teachers program to provide scholarships to people committed to teaching in public schools and $7.5 million for loan repayment for teachers of color
- $10 million for loan repayment and bonuses for the homeless shelter workforce that continue to provide critical services to the most vulnerable
- $4.8 million for the Innovation Pathways program to continue to connect students to trainings and post-secondary opportunities in the industry sector with a focus on STEM fields
- $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million to continue partnerships with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses
Additional investments include:
Authorization of a 5% cost of living adjustment for retired State Employees and Teachers, as well as a local option provision authorizing the 102 local retirement boards to pay an FY23 COLA from 3-5%. This was a critical priority for our team.
You can read the full text of the budget that the legislature sent to the Governor here.
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