BOSTON – July 31, 2015 –This week, Representative Jennifer Benson joined her colleagues in the Legislature to take final action on the FY16 budget. The House and Senate joined together to override Governor Charlie Baker’s vetoes to vital education funding, local programs, and economic development initiatives.
“This is a responsible, balanced budget,” said Representative Benson (D-Lunenburg). “I was proud to join my colleagues in voting to override cuts to education, local aid, substance abuse treatment and other essential, effective programs.”
Recognizing the importance of providing statewide access to full-day kindergarten Representative Benson joined the Legislature to override a cut to kindergarten expansion grants, reaffirming her support for funding in the amount of $18.6 million.
The Legislature also took action to restore cuts to the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges. This week’s overrides include the restoration of $5.25 million for the UMass system, as the universities continue to distinguish themselves as pillars of excellence in public education and an economic driver for the Commonwealth. The Legislature’s budget as sent to the Governor also included a strong focus on early education and care (EEC). That commitment was reaffirmed through the restoration of $3.4 million in vetoes that support EEC programs and services.
“I strongly advocated for education during the budget debate, so I am pleased that we were able to restore funding to some of the key early and higher education line items, and ensure that the final FY16 budget reflects the Legislature’s recommended appropriations,” said Representative Benson.
Overriding the Governor’s vetoes, Representative Benson also voted to restore funding to the following education line items:
- MassCAN: $1.7 million to establish widespread, progressive computer science curriculum in public school through a public-private match program;
- STEM Starter Academy: $4.75 million to promote STEM careers at the Commonwealth’s community colleges;
- Mass Tech Collaborative: $750,000 for the Mass Tech Collaborative Tech and Innovation Entrepreneurship program to establish entrepreneur and startup mentoring;
- Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative: $500,000 for grants to support planning activities for pre-kindergarten and preschool programs, and to expand pre-kindergarten and preschool opportunities; and
- Reach out and Read Program: $1 million to fund early literacy programs.
The Legislature also restored $5.17 million in cuts to the Office of Travel and Tourism and $2.37 million to the Massachusetts Cultural Council. These overrides include $150,000 for Acton’s beloved Discovery Museums, visited by thousands of children each year.
Additional overrides include:
- More than $2.2 million for substance abuse treatment programs across the Commonwealth;
- Restoration of funding for unaccompanied homeless youth housing services;
- $3 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program for a total of $82.9 million to support about 1,000 new vouchers for families at risk of homelessness;
- $600,000 restored for Family Health Services, bringing total funding to $5.62 million.
On Thursday, Representative Benson also voted with the Legislature to approve a bill creating a sales tax holiday on August 15 and 16, 2015. The legislation is designed to provide relief to consumers and increase sales for local businesses. As in previous years, the sales tax holiday will apply to purchases under $2,500, and excludes vehicles, motorized boats, tobacco, meals and utilities.