In early July, the Massachusetts House of Representatives passed a $40.2 billion FY18 Conference Committee budget. After the House and Senate pass their versions of the budget, three House and three Senate members meet to reconcile the differences between the budgets. The product of their work is the Conference Committee budget which goes to both branches for a final vote of acceptance.
In the midst of a tough fiscal climate, we achieved a budget that makes targeted investments to protect our most vulnerable citizens. I am particularly proud of the work we’ve done on early education and care, as well as services for the disabled. The budget demonstrates the House’s continued commitment to the education, housing and the health of all Massachusetts residents. It includes funding to support evidence-based practices to reduce recidivism and provide job training for ex-prisoners, funding for anti-gang and youth violence prevention programs and funding to increase the salaries of early educators. Additionally, the House passed a bill allocating $26.1 million to pay attorneys who represented indigent clients this past fiscal year.
Given the uncertainty at the federal level, we must continue to fund social services and provide resources for the people of the Commonwealth. Below are some highlights of the FY18 Conference Committee budget.
- An increase of $119 million for school aid, which amounts to an increase of $30 per pupil
- Increase in the Employer Medical Assistance Contribution paid by employers to help cover the cost of MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program
- Increase of $61.7 million for developmental services, particularly in support of the growing Turning 22 population
- $15 million for early educator provider rates
- Almost $96 million for the State Scholarship Program
- $100 million deposit in the state’s “rainy day” fund
- $132.5 million for the Bureau for Substance Abuse Services, including:
- $150,000 for the Dimock Center’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health programming
- $150,000 for Self Esteem Boston to provide skill development training to homeless, substance abusers and individuals transitioning out of the criminal justice system
- $36 million increase in overall funding to the Department of Children and Families
- Almost $93 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, which provides a permanent improvement in the lives of low-income families and individuals by offering both tenant- and project-based rental subsidies
- $91.7 million for child and adolescent mental health services including expanded case management services for young adults
- $4.3 million for youth violence prevention programs in the Commonwealth
- Almost $11 million for youth-at-risk programs seeking to reduce juvenile delinquency in high risk areas
- $15 million to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, or RAFT, which enables families to avoid homelessness by providing the assistance necessary to maintain housing or move into housing
Massachusetts faces a tough fiscal climate as tax revenue growth continues to be lower than expected. This is part of the challenge that we face during this budget process and beyond it. I look forward to engaging with my colleagues to address these challenges.
Jeffrey Sanchez has been the state representative for the 15th Suffolk/Norfolk District since 2003, which includes parts of Mission Hill, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale and Brookline.