Rep. Benson Votes with Legislature to Pass Balanced Budget with Significant Investments in Education and Health Care

BOSTON – On Monday afternoon, Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg), along with her colleagues in the Massachusetts Legislature, passed the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) budget. Funded at $43.1 billion, the budget makes major investments in education, health care, and other areas while projecting a $476 million deposit into the Stabilization Fund – bringing the fund’s balance to more than $3 billion to safeguard the financial stability of the Commonwealth.

“This budget reflects the Legislature’s values and priorities by making historic investments in education, with the largest year-over-year increase in public education funding in decades,” said Representative Benson. “Throughout the budget process, I was proud to advocate for the priorities of my constituents and local aid funding for the towns of my district.”

Funding for projects and programs specific to the 37th Middlesex District in the FY2020 budget include:

  • $150,000 for the Acton Miracle Field Facilities;
  • $100,000 for the renovation of a building in Acton to serve as a community center;
  • $100,000 for elderly and commuter shuttles linking to the Commuter Rail Station in Acton;
  • $250,000 for improvements to the Depot Square area and commuter rail facility in Ayer;
  • $150,000 for the Advanced Manufacturing Training Program at the Devens campus at Mount Wachusett Community College;
  • $165,000 for the removal of fuel storage tanks in Lunenburg;
  • $100,000 for the Lunenburg Fire Department to purchase new equipment;
  • $67,000 for improvements to the Lunenburg Senior Center and Town Hall;
  • $50,000 for renovations to the Shirley War Memorial Building; and
  • Prison mitigation funding for towns such as Shirley that host Department of Corrections facilities.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, the budget will increase the Commonwealth’s contribution to the Community Preservation Act, which will provide $36 million more for projects across the Commonwealth. This will help raise the state’s match up to 30% for investments in open space, affordable housing, and historic preservation.

The budget provides $5.17 billion in Chapter 70 education funding as part of a $268 million increase for investments in public schools over FY2019. It also addresses the need for integrated student health and wellness supports, providing $2 million to establish the Supporting Health Alliances Reinforcing Education (SHARE) grant program to address non-academic barriers to school success. The budget builds on the Legislature’s commitment to education from early childhood through adulthood by increasing rates for early education providers by $20 million and supporting continuing education opportunities with community colleges. Additional education allocations include:

  • $345 million for Special Education Circuit Breaker reimbursement;
  • $115 million for charter school reimbursement;
  • $75.9 million for regional school transportation reimbursement; and
  • $8.3 million for After-School and Out-of-School Time grants.

The budget continues to prioritize the Commonwealth’s efforts to address the opioid epidemic – a public health crisis that has touched nearly every household across the Commonwealth. To help those in need, the budget gives all EMS and ambulance companies access to discounted naloxone, making it more available for use in the field. In addition, the budget includes:

  • $150 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, which will help create five new recovery centers across the state and support substance use disorder workforce initiatives; and
  • $5.5 million for a comprehensive statewide strategy for community-based harm reduction services.

“I am proud of this fiscally responsible budget that supports the needs of individuals, families, and communities across the Commonwealth through thoughtful investments that increase local aid, strengthen our health care system, and protect the environment,” said House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop). “This budget bolsters our ongoing efforts to combat the opioid crisis, invest in high-quality early education and care, and makes another significant deposit into the state’s Stabilization Fund. These investments will have a long and lasting positive effect on the residents of Massachusetts. I want to thank Chair Michlewitz for his leadership and my colleagues in the House, especially those on the conference committee, who worked to put this package together.”

MassHealth, the single largest program in the Commonwealth’s budget, provides health insurance coverage for our most vulnerable populations, including the homeless, low-income mothers with children, and the working poor. In addition to funding this key safety net program, the budget also funds supplemental rates for nursing homes in the MassHealth programs at $415 million, a 13.5% increase over FY2019.

The budget includes policy language that gives the Executive Office of Health & Human Services (EOHHS) and the Health Policy Commission (HPC) more tools to lower drug costs in the MassHealth program. The language allows EOHHS to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers for supplemental rebates to lower overall prescription drug spending within MassHealth. EOHHS can hold public hearings on supplemental rebates where members of the public can weigh in by providing testimony. If EOHHS and a manufacturer still cannot reach an agreement on the price of a drug, EOHHS has the option to refer the matter to the HPC for a thorough investigation.. The HPC can then make a determination regarding whether the price of the drug is unreasonable or excessive.

Passed by the House and Senate, the budget now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.