House Passes FY17 Budget, Including Rep. Benson’s Amendments

(Boston) –April 28, 2017 Representative Jennifer Benson joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives yesterday to unanimously pass the $39.5 billion House Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) budget, which provides robust increases to local aid and education funding.

Investments in local aid include a 4.3% increase to Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), and an all-time high in Chapter 70 education funding of over $4.61 billion, providing an increase of $55 per pupil over last year’s budget. Overall, in the last year, local aid and education funding has increased by $159 million.

“This is a strong budget,” said Representative Benson. “We substantially increased funding for education and general government aid, and we did not have to increase taxes or borrow from the stabilization fund.”

The towns of the 37th Middlesex District (Acton, Ayer, Boxborough, Harvard, Lunenburg, and Shirley) will all see increases to their UGGA funding, 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.

The budget also continues the Legislature’s commitment to increase services for addiction treatment, with funding for an additional 45 beds at Taunton State Hospital.

Representative Benson filed and co-sponsored several amendments  that directly benefit the District, including funding for an additional van for the Acton and Maynard Senior Van Program, prison mitigation funding for the town of Shirley to support their hosting of the MCI Shirley facility, regional bonus aid for regional school districts formed after 2013, and Chapter 40S funding that benefits towns like Lunenburg that have created smart-growth zoning districts that include a high percentage of affordable housing units.

“I am proud that I successfully advocated for the towns of the 37th Middlesex District during the budget debate,” said Representative Benson. “The amendments I fought to be included in the House budget will benefit transportation, affordable housing, and education in the region.”

Additionally, the budget includes amendments supported by the Representative that benefit the entire Commonwealth, including language extending the expiration of the Afterschool and Out-of-School Time Coordinating Council, on which Representative Benson serves as Co-Chair, language changing the monthly personal needs allowance for nursing and rest home residents from “up to $72.80” to $72.80, and language requiring the Center of Health Information Analysis to factor rebates and discounts on pharmaceutical products into their healthcare cost analysis, which will result in more accurate data and higher quality public policies.

The budget now moves to the Senate, which will debate their version of it in May.