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Sen. DiDomenico priorities included in Senate Budget

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Last week the Senate Committee on Ways and Means released a $57.9 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25) that reflects the Senate’s vision of creating a more affordable, equitable and competitive Massachusetts by investing in residents and communities across every district of the Commonwealth while continuing to be fiscally responsible and chart a sustainable path forward. Senator Sal DiDomenico was successful in securing historic investments for his priorities and programs that will benefit people in Cambridge, Charlestown, Chelsea, Everett and throughout the Commonwealth.

DiDomenico celebrated the inclusion of programs he championed, such as, Universal School Meals funding, expanded support for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program, resources for our most vulnerable residents, early intervention services and healthcare for our children, and historic investments in education from early ed, to K-12 schools, to completely free community college for every Massachusetts student. Senator DiDomenico will file amendments to include funding for more priorities and local initiatives, and the Senate will then debate the FY25 budget proposal in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 21, 2024.

“Budgets reflect our government’s priorities, and I am proud to support this proposal which demonstrates our commitment to uplifting our children and families, workers, and people most in need throughout the Commonwealth,” said Senator DiDomenico, who is Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I am thrilled that so many of my priorities have been included in the Senate budget and through these investments, we will expand access to nutritious foods, quality education from pre-K through community college, resources for our most vulnerable residents, as well as, healthcare and housing. I want to thank Senate President Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues, for pulling together a budget that will make our state more equitable and affordable for people from every corner of the state.”

The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $57.9 billion in spending, a $1.8 billion increase over the FY24 General Appropriations Act (GAA). This sensible spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $41.5 billion for FY25, which is $208 million less than revenues assumed in the FY24 GAA. This represents nearly flat growth, as agreed upon during the Consensus Revenue process in January, plus $1.3 billion in revenue generated from the Fair Share surtax.

As the Commonwealth adjusts to a changing economic landscape and ongoing tax revenue volatility, the Committee’s FY25 budget adheres to disciplined and responsible fiscal stewardship. It does not raise taxes, nor does it draw down available reserves from the Stabilization Fund or the Transitional Escrow Fund; at the same time it judicially utilizes one-time resources to maintain balance. The Senate’s budget continues responsible and sustainable planning for the future by continuing to grow the Rainy-Day Fund, already at a historic high of over $8 billion. The Senate’s proposal would build the Commonwealth’s reserves to a healthy balance in excess of $9 billion at the close of FY25.

Fair Share Investments: Consistent with the consensus revenue agreement reached with the Administration and House of Representatives in January, the Senate’s FY25 budget includes $1.3 billion in revenues generated from the Fair Share surtax of 4% on annual income above $1 million. As FY25 represents the second year where this source of revenue is available, the Committee’s budget invests these Fair Share revenues into an array of important initiatives to further strengthen our state’s economy by expanding access to quality public education and improving the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Education: The Senate Ways and Means FY25 budget proposal implements the Senate’s Student Opportunity Plan by shaping polices to make high-quality education more accessible and by making significant investments in the education system, from our youngest learners to adults reentering the higher education system. Recognizing that investing in our EEC system directly supports the underlying economic competitiveness of the Commonwealth, the Senate’s budget makes a $1.58 billion investment in EEC. The FY25 budget will maintain operational support for providers, support the EEC workforce and prioritize accessibility and affordability throughout our EEC system.

Building off the Senate’s unanimous passage of the comprehensive EARLY ED Act in March, the Committee’s FY25 budget codifies several provisions of the Act, transforming the state’s relationship with the early education sector by improving affordability and access for families, increasing pay for educators and ensuring the sustainability and quality of EEC programs. In K-12 education, the Senate follows through on the commitment to fully fund and implement the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by Fiscal Year 2027, investing $6.9 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $316 million over FY24, as well as increasing minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $104 per pupil, delivering an additional $37 million in resources to school districts across the state. With these investments, the Senate continues to provide crucial support to school districts confronting the increasing cost pressures that come with delivering high-quality education to all students.

In addition to the record levels of investment in early education and K-12, the Committee’s budget removes barriers to accessing public higher education by codifying into law MassEducate, a $117.5 million investment in a universal free community college program that covers tuition and fees for residents – aimed at supporting economic opportunity and workforce development and opening the door to higher education for people who might never have had access. The FY25 budget permanently enshrines free community college into law in an affordable, sustainable and prudent manner across the Commonwealth, while leaving no federal dollars on the table. Other education investment areas: the special education circuit breaker; charter school reimbursements; reimbursing school districts for regional school transportation costs; higher education wraparound services, including General Fund resources to support wraparound supports to the influx of new students coming to community colleges campuses because of MassEducate; Rural School Aid supports; Early College programs and the state’s Dual Enrollment initiative, both of which provide high school students with increased opportunities for post-graduate success; supporting continued implementation of the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Higher Education law, including helping high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 access higher education opportunities; the Genocide Education Trust Fund, continuing our commitment to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide; and Hate Crimes Prevention Grants to support education and prevention of hate crimes and incidences of bias in public schools.

  Community Support: The Committee’s budget – in addition to funding traditional accounts like Chapter 70 education aid – further demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to partnerships between the Commonwealth and municipalities. This includes $1.3 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $38 million over FY24, to support additional resources for cities and towns. In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $53 million, an increase of $1.5 million over FY24. PILOT funding is an additional source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during recovery from the pandemic. Other local investment areas: Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation systems, including Fair Share funding to support RTAs that help to connect all regions of our Commonwealth; libraries, including regional library local aid, municipal libraries and technology and automated resource networks; the Mass Cultural Council.

  Health, Mental Health & Family Care: The Senate budget funds MassHealth at a total of $20.33 billion, providing more than two million people with continued access to affordable, accessible and comprehensive health care services.

Expanding & Protecting Opportunities: The Senate remains committed to continuing an equitable recovery, expanding opportunity and supporting the state’s long-term economic health. To that end, the Committee’s budget maintains the annual child’s clothing allowance, providing $450 per child for eligible families to buy clothes for the upcoming school year. The budget also includes a 10 per cent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefit levels compared to June 2024 to help families move out of deep poverty. In addition, the budget provides $87 million in critical funding to support a host of food security initiatives, including $42 million for Emergency Food Assistance to assist residents in navigating the historical levels in food insecurity, and $20 million for the Health Incentives Program (HIP) to ensure full operation of the program to maintain access to healthy food options for SNAP households. The budget funds many economic opportunity investment areas.

Housing: As the Senate moves forward to shape a more fiscally sustainable path for the Commonwealth, affordable housing opportunities remain out of reach for too many. Longstanding housing challenges are being exacerbated by the influx of people migrating to Massachusetts, and a lack of federal financial assistance and immigration reform. To that end, the Committee’s budget invests $1.14 billion, dedicating resources for housing stability, residential assistance, emergency shelter services and homelessness assistance programs, ensuring the state deploys a humane, responsible and sustainable approach to providing families and individuals in need with an access point to secure housing. The budget prioritizes relief for families and individuals who continue to face challenges brought on by the pandemic and financial insecurity, including $325.3 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters, in addition to the $175 million in resources passed in the recent supplemental budget, to place the Commonwealth’s shelter system on a fiscal glidepath into FY25, in addition to $197.4 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT). Other housing investment areas: the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP); assistance to local housing authorities; assistance for homeless individuals; the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs; the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), including providing rental assistance to people with disabilities; assistance for unaccompanied homeless youth; the Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs); sponsored-based supportive permanent housing; the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including funding to support homeless LGBTQ youths.

The FY25 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website at https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.

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