BOSTON – July 9, 2015 – On Wednesday night, State Representative Jennifer Benson voted with the vast majority of the House of Representatives to approve the Conference Committee Report on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget.
“I was proud to vote with the overwhelming majority of the House to send the FY 2016 budget to the Governor’s desk,” said State Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg). “This budget reflects the state’s values and priorities, and invests in areas that will have tremendously positive effects for the people in my district.”
The final budget comprises $38.1 billion in spending, a modest 3.5% increase over last year. Top priorities of Representative Benson were incorporated in the final budget, including regional bonus aid, an increase in regional school transportation funding, and prison mitigation funding for Shirley. Unrestricted General Government Aid was increased by 3.6%.
All of the school districts in the 37th Middlesex Districts will see increases in their Chapter 70 educational funding, ranging from 0.5% for Ayer-Shirley Regional School District, to 4.1% for Lunenburg Public Schools.
“Increased education funding is something I fought hard for during budget deliberations, and I’m happy to report that all of the public schools in my district will see increases in state funding,” said Representative Benson. “Across the state, funding for regional school transportation will increase by more than 12% to $59.021 million. That’s a big increase, and it will mean more money for teachers, books, and technology for our kids.”
Other education highlights of the FY 2016 budget include $271.7 million for special education circuit breaker funding, and $18.6 million for kindergarten expansion grants.
Additionally, priorities advocated for by local chambers of commerce made it into the budget, including budget line-item 7007-0801 for a $100,000 microlending grant, and line-item 7007-0150 for regional economic development organization program grant funding.
The budget also establishes an MBTA Fiscal Management Control Board to address cost and management problems, and revises MBTA procurement methods to allow for further cost reductions.
On January 1, 2016, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) maximum will be increased to $1,459, allowing some taxpayers to receive up to an additional $508 per year. The overall increase would assist approximately 415,000 working families who claim the credit. The scheduled FAS 109 corporate tax deduction was repealed to pay for the EITC increase.
New policy initiatives include state-sponsored substance abuse treatment and prevention programs to provide the drug Vivitrol to those suffering from opiate and alcohol addiction, a trust fund and program to allow municipalities to purchase the drug Narcan in bulk, and a new requirement that pharmacies report to the Department of Public Health information on all Schedule II-IV medication dispensed every 24 hours, instead of every 7 days.
The budget is now before Governor Charlie Baker for his final approval.