BOSTON – Representative Jennifer Benson joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday to unanimously pass a $38.05 billion House fiscal year 2016 (FY16) budget focused on restoring local aid to cities and towns, investing in education and reforming the strained MBTA system.
The House FY16 budget increases spending by a modest 2.8% over last year, and contains targeted investments in local aid, education, and transportation infrastructure. Heeding calls from constituents to rein in spending and improve government services, the budget includes no new taxes or fees, and takes immediate steps to address systemic problems at the MBTA. The budget establishes a 5-year moratorium on the Pacheco Law procurement requirements, and calls for an independent audit of the T’s maintenance protocols and fiscal liabilities.
Investments in local aid include a $35 million increase to Unrestricted General Government Aid and an all-time high in Chapter 70 funding of $4.5 billion, providing an increase of $25 per pupil. In addition to the education local aid reimbursements, this budget also includes key investments in education, such as restoring full-day kindergarten grants for this year, and fully funding the Circuit Breaker at the 75% reimbursement.
“This is a budget we can be proud of,” said Representative Benson. “The budget we passed proves that it’s possible to provide critical financial support to our cities and towns, while still maintaining fiscal discipline. We’ve increased funding for education, regional school transportation, mass transit, and general government local aid, all without raising taxes or dipping into the rainy day fund.”
In the budget, the towns of the 37th Middlesex District, Acton, Ayer, Boxborough, Harvard, Lunenburg, and Shirley, will all see increases to their UGGA funding from 2015, while the Harvard, Lunenburg, Acton-Boxborough Regional, Ayer-Shirley Regional, and Nashoba Valley Technical school districts will all see increases to their Chapter 70 educational funding.
Representative Benson filed and co-sponsored amendments to the budget that directly benefit the 37th Middlesex District, including a request to include regional bonus aid, increase regional school transportation, and guarantee funding for towns that host Department of Corrections facilities. Regional Bonus aid was not included in the Governor’s or House Ways and Means’ budget recommendations, but Representative Benson successfully amended the budget to include a $100,000 appropriation for regional school districts formed after 2013. While the regional transportation amendment was not included in the final House budget, the final appropriation is a $5.0 million increase over current levels, providing a 67% reimbursement rate to regional school districts. The prison mitigation funding amendment was included in the House budget, which will benefit the Town of Shirley.
As a co-chair of the After School and Out-of-School Time Coordinating Council, Representative Benson also successfully filed an amendment to increase the appropriation that invests in quality programs for youth across the Commonwealth.
The budget now goes to the Senate for amendments and debate.