BOSTON – On Wednesday, July 18, Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) voted in favor of the $41.88 billion Massachusetts state budget for FY19. The budget features no new taxes or fees, and directs a $367 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund to ensure our state’s fiscal health and protect Massachusetts’ future.
“This is a fiscally-sound budget that addresses our key priorities,” said Speaker DeLeo, (D-Winthrop). “I am particularly proud of our investments in early education and care, the stabilization fund, criminal justice bill and our decision to lift the cap on benefits for children. I congratulate Chairman Sanchez and my colleagues in the Legislature for working together on this important legislation.”
“This budget prioritizes supporting vulnerable communities, and demonstrates our commitment to investing in education,” said Representative Benson. “It proves that Massachusetts can be both fiscally responsible, and responsive to the needs of constituents.”
In recognition of the state’s strong support for education, the Legislature approved an unprecedented $4.9 billion in Chapter 70 education funding, which represents an increase of 3.4 percent over FY18. Funding for regional school transportation, charter school tuition reimbursement, early childhood education, and grants for after-school programs are also increased.
Representative Benson led the campaign in the House of Representatives to increase funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program, which has been increased 8.7 percent over FY18 to an all-time high of $319.3 million. The program reimburses school districts for the costs of educating students with severe special needs.
As part of an ongoing effort to ensure access to safe and affordable housing for the most vulnerable Massachusetts residents, the budget provides $100 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), $32 million for the HomeBASE program, and $20 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT). The budget reflects the Legislature’s commitment to ensuring the wellbeing of children and families by lifting the cap on benefits for children of low-income families.
To address the ongoing opioid epidemic, the budget includes $142 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services to create five recovery centers in Massachusetts. The budget features $5 million to support community-based treatment program and $4.9 million for step-down recovery services.
The budget ensures that cities and towns are empowered to effectively manage their regional transit systems to ensure reliable service and fiscal responsibility. Regional Transit Authorities across Massachusetts are allocated $88 million to assure that our residents have access to reliable and affordable transportation. The Massachusetts Cultural Council received $16 million in funding, which is a 24% increase over last year.
Representative Benson successfully secured funding for several district 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; and
- $75 thousand for the Acton-Maynard Senior Van Service and the South Acton Commuter Rail Shuttle.
In addition, the budget includes the following policy provisions:
- Clear statutory authority to the Juvenile Courts to protect unaccompanied immigrant youth from deportation;
- The creation of a commission to examine funding operations for Sheriff departments, with an eye towards encouraging the use of best practices, with an emphasis on recidivism reduction; and
- Expanding access to non-profits working with the state to discounted Naloxone (Narcan), helping to make it more easily available at a lower cost.
The budget now moves to the Governor for consideration.