BOSTON – Representative Jennifer Benson voted with her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives this week to pass a $40.4 billion FY18 budget which represents a commitment to fiscal responsibility and local aid. The spending bill protects vulnerable residents through investments in early education and care, substance addiction initiatives, and funding to help individuals with developmental disabilities.
As we face uncertainty at the federal level, this budget takes comprehensive action to promote sustained fiscal health in Massachusetts. For the fourth consecutive year, the House budget reduces the state’s reliance on one-time revenue. It includes a $100 million deposit to the stabilization fund, which will result in a projected balance of more than $1.4 billion and help preserve the state’s AA+ bond rating.
The House continues to fund local aid at historically high levels, with this budget increasing Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by $40 million and local education aid (Chapter 70) by $106.4 million. The increase to Chapter 70 guarantees that every school district will receive a minimum increase of $30 per pupil in FY18. The budget also adds $4 million to the special education circuit breaker and increases investment in regional school transportation by $1 million over the current FY17 level.
Representative Benson’s amendment to reinstate the regional bonus aid line item for regional school districts was adopted and allocates $56,920. Regional bonus aid provides additional funding to newly established or expanded regional school districts to help offset the costs associated with regionalization. In FY18, this funding will benefit the Acton-Boxborough Regional School District, which formed in 2013.
“Throughout the budget process, I fought for increased funding for local aid accounts, and the final FY18 House budget reflects that,” said Representative Benson. “We were able to work together to craft a responsible balanced budget, while still maintaining our commitments to education and economic development.”
Additionally, Representative Benson’s amendment to increase funding for the Afterschool and Out-of-School Time Q-Grant program for K-12 students was included in the budget, as was her amendment to fund micro-lending programs for local community development organizations such as the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation.
Since FY12, the Legislature has increased funding for substance addiction services to unprecedented levels and passed two landmark bills to help address this public health epidemic. This year’s budget makes notable investments related to behavioral health and addiction, including almost $132 million for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services. Additional provisions include $1 million for new substance addiction beds, and a $5 million increase for the Department of Corrections’ Alcohol and Substance Abuse Center.
After healthcare spending and local aid, the budget for developmental services receives the largest increase in the House’s spending bill. Given the growing and changing need for developmental services this budget funds an $87 million increase, bringing spending to more than $1.9 billion for these critical programs.
The budget will now go to the Senate for its consideration