Rep. Benson Votes with House to Pass Balanced Budget Focused on Local Aid

BOSTON – Representative Jennifer Benson joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week to pass its FY19 budget. Funded at $41.064 billion, the House budget maintains funding for key programs amidst an uncertain revenue forecast and uncertainty about federal funding. It includes no new broad-based taxes, and projects an $88 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund.

“This is a fiscally-sound budget that addresses key House priorities and sets the standard for supporting those facing adversity,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo. “I am particularly proud of the work we have done on early education and care, and I believe that our efforts will have a lasting impact on the lives of countless families. I want to offer my sincere thanks to Chairman Sánchez for his hard work and my colleagues who provided invaluable insight.”

The budget increases Unrestricted Government General Aid and local education funding by $220 million over FY18, and $54 million over the Governor’s budget proposal. It provides an unprecedented $4.9 billion in Chapter 70 education funding, including an increase of $39 million from FY18 to address increasing teacher and faculty healthcare costs, as recommended by the Foundation Budget Review Commission. Additional education and local aid allocations include:

  • $300 million for Circuit Breaker Special Education reimbursement;
  • $90 million for Charter School Reimbursement;
  • $63.5 million for Regional School Transportation reimbursement.

I was proud to vote in favor of the House’s balanced and thoughtful FY19 budget,” said Representative Benson. “This budget prioritizes local aid and education, and makes clear that the House is committed to investing in services that lift up families.”

Representative Benson was also successful in securing funding for several district-specific priorities, including:

  • $150 thousand for advanced manufacturing and technology training programs at Mount Wachusett Community College;
  • $25 thousand for the Lunenburg Eagle House Senior Community Center
  • $75 thousand for the Acton-Maynard Senior Van Service and the South Acton Commuter Rail Shuttle

The opioid epidemic is a public health crisis that continues to take lives at an alarming rate. Recent data show that previous investments have made an impact: the number of opioid-related deaths decreased in 2017. However, hospitals, police departments, and EMTs report an ever-rising number of overdoses, underscoring the need to invest in treatment and recovery. To help those in need, the House budget includes:

  • $139 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services which will help create five new recovery centers across Massachusetts;
  • $5 million for diversion programs to direct people into community-based treatment programs;
  • $4.9 million for step-down recovery services;
  • $1 million for the purchase of Narcan for first responders and an expansion of the Municipal Naloxone Bulk Purchase Trust Fund

MassHealth is the single largest investment that the Commonwealth makes in its most vulnerable residents. In addition to MassHealth funding, which provides health insurance for almost 2 million residents, the budget ensures funding for crucial health and human services including:

  • Increases funding for the Department of Mental Health by $97 million over FY18;
  • $989 million to continue reforms that protect children at the Department of Children and Families;
  • Increases the Councils on Aging formula grant from $10 to $12 per individual, per year;
  • $100,000 to establish the Office of Health Equity, which will look at factors like housing and culture to coordinate efforts and eliminate health disparities;
  • $4.2 million for veterans outreach centers.

In light of recent news at the Massachusetts State Police, the House budget recommends a three-tiered approach to address the future of the State Police. The proposed updates will monitor the agency, help develop best practices, and prevent issues from occurring in the future.

The budget now goes to the Senate.