Yesterday, the Senate passed its version of the Fiscal Year 2023 state budget by a vote of 40 – 0. I kicked off budget week with a short intro video. You can watch it here. Though budget debate happens over a one-week period, it is the culmination of months of work with constituents, advocates, and Senate leadership – making the strongest possible case for our top priorities. And then fighting like hell to win.
That work and advocacy, as well as healthy state revenues, meant that the budget that came to the floor for debate was already quite strong. Like the House, the Senate picks priority areas. Some overlap with the House’s priorities, others are unique.
The $49.8 billion budget passed by the Senate contains significant investments in public higher education, public health, local aid to cities and towns, PILOT payments, and early education and childcare, all of which were among my top asks in budget meetings. It takes timely action to protect abortion providers and patients and those seeking and offering gender-affirming care. It provides necessary funding to reform the state’s approach to public safety and bolsters funding for essential food system programs. I’m proud of this smart and compassionate budget. Below, I unpack the various provisions included in the Senate’s final version, but first let me walk you through the amendments I filed and what I spoke to in the Senate Chamber during the week-long debate.
I filed 29 amendments to the budget. Amendments to address local needs, amendments to boost funding for key statewide programs, and a few amendments that were slightly more technical. Of those 29 amendments, I’m pleased that the Senate adopted 16, which added a total of $23,125,400 in spending to the Senate’s final budget.
Each of these amendments represents a partnership, and the amendments that were successful owe their success in part to the advocates, local officials and constituents who raised their voices on behalf of timely funding needs.
Amendment #67, UMass Extension, was adopted to include $620,570 in funding for the UMass Center for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (UMass Extension). I spoke in support of this amendment during the debate, with help from some great graphics. I have filed this amendment unsuccessfully to previous budgets, so please forgive the honey pun but this is a particularly sweet win.
Amendment #558, Equitable Approaches to Public Safety, was adopted to include an additional $1 million in funding for the state’s Equitable Approaches to Public Safety grant program, bringing the total funding for this grant program in the Senate budget to $3.5 million. I also spoke in support of this amendment and described the success of alternative crisis response models funded through these important grants.
Amendment #834, Community Preservation Act Surplus Funding, was adopted to direct $20 million in surplus Fiscal Year 2022 revenue to the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund to be distributed to CPA Communities. I spoke in support of this amendment as well and talked about some of the many wonderful projects funded using CPA money in our communities.
Amendment #48, Healthy Soils Prior Authorization Continued, was adopted to allow $100,000 secured in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget for the state’s Healthy Soils program to be carried forward into Fiscal Year 2023.
Amendment #269, Rural Microlending, was adopted to allow the Franklin County Community Development Corporation (CDC) and other rural CDCs that lend through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and not through the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), the same access to state microlending grants that is afforded to SBA lenders.
I also secured amendments totaling $500,000 for Hampshire, Franklin, Worcester district needs, listed below:
- Amendment 1075: $60,000 for Grow Food Northampton for leasing farmland at a reduced cost to those who otherwise could not afford to farm
- Amendment 1070: $100,000 for a generator for the Montague Water Pollution Control Facility
- Amendment 1072: $10,000 for fire safety equipment for the Town of Royalston adding to funding secured in the House budget by Rep. Susannah Whipps
- Amendment 1049: $35,000 for the Trauma Informed Hampshire County initiative out of the Collaborative for Educational Services
- Amendment 1050: $10,000 for the Town of Northfield’s 350th Anniversary
- Amendment 1067: $100,000 for a new senior center to serve residents of Deerfield, Sunderland, and Whately
- Amendment 1073: $40,000 for the Town of Wendell for road and highway equipment
- Amendment 1074: $100,000 for the Town of Orange to demolish an unsafe building that caused the closure of part of West River Street
- Amendment 1076: $25,000 for Cathy’s House in Winchendon for supportive housing services for women veterans
- Amendment 1102: $20,000 for homelessness prevention in the North Quabbin region
I also supported provisions and an amendment that make key advances in reproductive equity and gender-affirming health care, including:
- An appropriation of $2 million to improve reproductive health care access and to support abortion funds here in Massachusetts, like the stellar work being led in western Massachusetts by Abortion Rights Fund of Western Massachusetts. And more money on top of that for family planning led by critical organizations like Tapestry.
- And Amendment 388, which protects providers and patients in Massachusetts from legal repercussions in other states when they provide or receive reproductive health care services and/or gender-affirming health care services in the Commonwealth, creates a statewide standing order for pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception, and prevents Massachusetts courts or law enforcement from assisting efforts initiated in other states to enforce their state laws against reproductive or gender-affirming health care services. I spoke to my unwavering support of Amendment 388 here.
I have not listed or described all of the amendments filed by other Senators that I co-sponsored, but I do want to thank all of the constituents who contacted my office during that one-week period when amendments can be co-sponsored before the debate begins. My office received hundreds of calls and emails about the 1,189 amendments that were filed and we value every bit of input we receive. The funding that is important to you is important to me.
The next step for this budget to become law is for a six-person conference committee to be appointed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate budgets. Then a final budget can be sent to the Governor. I will continue to advocate throughout the conference committee process, for the funding described above as well as the key investments in various programs described below.
Yours in service,
Summary of the Senate’s FY23 Budget
Drawing on its belief that the state’s recovery is made stronger by a commitment to invest in early education and care, the Senate’s budget makes a $1.13 billion investment into this sector of the care economy, including $300 million in new resources to begin implementation of recommendations made by the Early Education and Care Economy Review Commission. These investments will help to stabilize providers, support the early educator workforce, and provide access to affordable care for children and families. Funding includes:
- $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
- $25 million for a new infrastructure and policy reform reserve to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape
- $25 million for the center-based childcare rate reserve for reimbursement rates for subsidized care
- $16.5 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families
- $15 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to pre-kindergarten and preschool opportunities in underserved areas
- $5 million for the Early Childhood Educators Scholarship
In K-12 education, the Senate delivers on its promise to fully fund and implement the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by FY 2027, investing $6 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $495 million over FY 2022, as well as double minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil. This investment ensures the state remains on schedule to fully implement the law by FY2027, provides school districts with resources to provide high quality educational opportunities, and addresses rising costs and administrative challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This budget also confronts head-on the issue of higher education student costs by providing $175.2 million for the scholarship reserve, including an additional $37.5 million for the MassGrant and MassGrant Plus programs. An amendment adopted by the Senate also dedicate $1 million to pilot a digital textbook and materials program at a community college or state university to provide student with the opportunity to access free textbooks online.
The Senate also expands access to inclusive education opportunities for young adults with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and codifying the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment grant program. The budget dedicates $4 million in flexible resources for the public higher education system to implement and support inclusive learning options for this diverse student population. Other education investments include:
- $435 million for the special education circuit breaker
- $243.8 million for charter school reimbursements
- $82.2 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs, representing an 85% reimbursement rate
- $10 million for Early College programs and $9 million for the state’s Dual Enrollment initiative, both of which provide high school students with increased opportunities for post-graduate success
- $5.5 million, after adding $1.5 million through an amendment, for targeted aid to rural schools
- $1.5 million for the Genocide Education Trust Fund, fulfilling our commitment to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide and support implementation efforts in accordance with Chapter 98 of the Acts of 2021, An Act Concerning Genocide Education, passed by the Legislature in 2021
Health, Mental Health & Family Care
For too many—especially children—the post-pandemic world continues to be wrought with uncertainty. To address these concerns, the Senate’s budget focuses on funding a range of services, including social emotional learning (SEL) support for students, domestic violence prevention, substance use disorder treatment, and strengthening our regional boards of health. The budget also supports the expansion of Family Resource Centers (FRCS), which offer resources to families seeking health, safety, educational, and employment services.
The Massachusetts State Senate’s FY23 budget also sends a strong message that reproductive health and gender affirming health will be protected, despite growing legal uncertainty across the United States. Investments include $2 million for grants for improvements in reproductive health access, infrastructure, and safety. An amendment to the budget also codifies new protections for receiving and providing reproductive and gender-affirming health care in Massachusetts in response to laws in other states allowing their residents to bring legal action against individuals for traveling out-of-state to receive services and against workers who provide care.
The Senate budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.56 billion, providing more than 2.1 million people with access to affordable and accessible health care services. Other health investments include:
- $514.6 million for Department of Mental Health adult support services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers
- $210.3 million for a complete range of substance use disorder treatment and intervention services to support these individuals and their families
- $112.5 million for children’s mental health services
- $56 million for domestic violence prevention services
- $40.4 million for Early Intervention services, ensuring supports remain accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities
- $28.3 million for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families
- $20 million to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives
- $18.5 million, increased during the amendment process, to expand to all correctional facilities the existing pilot program for the delivery of medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder
- $18 million for family and adolescent health, including $7.8 million for comprehensive family planning services and $6.7 million to enhance federal Title X family planning funding
- $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
- $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 to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, and $1 million to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students
- $4.4 million for the Office of the Child Advocate
- $3.5 million for the Massachusetts Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma
- $3 million for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused
- $1 million, increased through the amendment process, for an expansion of the Hey Sam text-based mental health support line, a peer-to-peer suicide prevention communications initiative for youth and young adults
The Senate also adopted an amendment that prevents correctional facilities from charging fees to incarcerated persons or their loved ones for prison phone calls, and it also sets a new requirement that commissary items in correctional facilities shall not be sold at more than 3 per cent over the purchase cost. Both changes ensure that our correctional facilities do not unjustly profit off the basic needs of incarcerated persons.
In addition, the Senate adopted an amendment to address the failures that led to the tragic death of Harmony Montgomery, who was released from state custody in 2019 when she was five years old, but then went missing for two years without being reported. To ensure that a tragedy like this will not happen again, this budget establishes a Harmony Montgomery Commission to study, examine and make recommendations regarding the welfare and best interest considerations of children in care and protection cases and petition to dispense with consent cases.
Expanding & Protecting Opportunities
The Senate remains committed to continuing an equitable recovery, expanding opportunity, and supporting the state’s long-term economic health. To that end, the budget includes a record investment in the annual child’s clothing allowance, providing $400 per child for eligible families to buy clothes for the upcoming school year. The budget also includes a 10 per cent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefit levels compared to June 2022 to help families move out of deep poverty.
With skilled workers in high demand and job openings plentiful, the Senate’s 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 access and skills to apply for future jobs. Economic opportunity investments include:
- $356.6 million for Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and $140.7 million for Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) to provide the necessary support as caseloads increase, and lift families and individuals out of so-called ‘deep poverty’
- $55.3 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce
- $30.5 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program
- $24.1 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth
- $20 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to maintain access to healthy food options for households in need
- $20 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program to provide economic support to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system
- $17 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs
- $15.4 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase our skilled worker population and provide residents access to career technical training opportunities
- $7.5 million for community foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations
- $5 million for the Secure Jobs Connect Program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals
- $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
- $500,000, through an amendment, for the Economic Empowerment Trust Fund to expand the state’s Baby Steps college savings program.
An amendment passed by the Senate would also establish a veteran equality review board to ensure that veterans dishonorably discharged under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” receive state-based veterans’ benefits. Another adopted amendment directs the state to develop one common application portal through which residents can simultaneously apply for multiple forms of state-administered needs-based benefits and services.
Based on the Senate’s understanding of the strong link housing security has to positive health and economic outcomes, the Senate FY23 budget invests over $900 million in increased funding for housing stability and homelessness assistance to work towards keeping people in their homes and helping individuals and families find permanent housing solutions.
The budget prioritizes relief for families and individuals who continue to face challenges brought on by both the pandemic and financial insecurity, including $213.2 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters and $210 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), including $60 million carried over from the March supplemental budget. The budget also upholds the emergency-level maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive at $10,000. Eligible households facing a housing crisis would also be given access to apply for RAFT and HomeBASE. The budget, through adoption of an amendment, also requires the Department of Housing and Community Development to study and report on the execution of no-fault evictions between 2019 and 2022. Other housing investments include:
- $175 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), including $20.7 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2022; the budget also recommends structural program changes that, starting January 1, 2023, will allow households to pay no more than 30% of their income for rent to receive rental vouchers for up to 110% of fair market value
- $92 million for assistance to local housing authorities
- $83.3 million for assistance for homeless individuals
- $56.9 million for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs, bolstering assistance under this program to two years with a per household maximum benefit of $20,000
- $19.3 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance to people with disabilities, including $5.6 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2022 and $2.5 million for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units
- $5 million for sponsored-based supportive permanent housing
- $3.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including $250,000 for homeless LGBTQ+ youth
The Committee’s budget reflects the Senate’s unwavering support for cities and towns and provides a significant amount of local and regional aid to ensure communities can provide essential services to the public while addressing local impacts caused by the pandemic. This includes $1.231 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $63 million over FY 2022, to support additional resources for cities and towns. In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $45 million, an increase of $10 million over FY 2022. PILOT funding is a vital source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during recovery from the pandemic. Other local investments include:
- $96.5 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation systems, including $2.5 million for the implementation of pilot programs for fare innovation and reduction across the state
- $40.8 million for libraries, including $14.5 million for regional library local aid, $16 million for municipal libraries and $4.7 million for technology and automated resource networks
- $22.3 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives
- $3 million for Non-Profit Security Grants, after an increase of $1.5 million through the amendment process, to cover vital security enhancements to houses of worship, community centers, and other institutions at heightened risk of violence
- $1 million for the New American Voter Grant Program to provide accessible election materials to municipalities with significant non-English speaking populations and promote public awareness about voting
The Senate also adopted an amendment based on recommendations of the PFAS Interagency Task Force, which would provide $250,000 for the continued implementation of the AFFF Take-Back Program that funds the collection and proper disposal of Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) stored by municipal fire departments and other public safety partners in Massachusetts.
Another amendment passed in the budget would also extend COVID-19 state-of-emergency provisions related to remote public meetings, flexible town meetings, remote notaries, remote corporate meeting and remote mortgage video conferencing.
The Senate’s FY23 Budget is available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.