(BOSTON– 5/10/22) The Senate Committee on Ways and Means on Tuesday announced a $49.68 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). A fiscally responsible and forward-looking plan, the Committee’s budget seeks to ensure the long-term economic health of the Commonwealth through increased investments in areas such as education, health care and housing so that Massachusetts residents can continue to move forward together. Above all, the proposal is intentional and targeted in its approach to providing support to those who continue to face challenges brought on by the global pandemic and ongoing financial uncertainty.
“The FY23 budget introduced today by the Senate continues our dedication to investing in the people of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Extraordinary events have occurred during the past few years that have upended the lives of too many. This budget continues to prioritize essential government services and programs, including early childhood and education programming and healthcare services, as Massachusetts continues to recover from the pandemic.”
The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $49.68 billion in spending, a $2.07 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) General Appropriations Act. This spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $36.915 billion for FY 2023, representing 2.7 per cent growth, as previously agreed upon during the consensus revenue process in January. With tax revenue collections exceeding expectations, the Committee’s FY 2023 budget avoids the use of one-time resources, helping to ensure that the Commonwealth continues to responsibly grow healthy reserves, address immediate needs and weather future uncertainty. The Senate FY23 budget also funds Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) at $1.231 billion. Other budget highlights are detailed below.
Drawing on its belief that the state’s recovery is made stronger by a commitment to invest in early education and care, the Senate’s budget makes a $1.13 billion investment into this sector of the care economy, including $300 million in new resources to begin implementation of recommendations made by the Early Education and Care Economy Review Commission. These investments will help to stabilize providers, support the early educator workforce, and provide access to affordable care for children and families. Funding includes:
- $250 million for the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Stabilization Grants, stabilizing the early education and care sector by supporting critical operational and workforce needs.
- $25 million for a new infrastructure and policy reform reserve to bolster the statewide system of care and assist families in navigating the early education landscape.
- $25 million for the center-based childcare rate reserve for reimbursement rates for subsidized care.
- $16.5 million for grants to the Head Start program to maintain access to early education services for low-income families.
- $15 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative to expand access to pre-kindergarten and preschool opportunities in underserved areas.
- $5 million for the Early Childhood Educators Scholarship.
In K-12 education, the Senate commits once again to fully funding and implementing the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by FY 2027, investing $6 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $495 million over FY 2022, as well as doubling minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil. This investment ensures the state remains on schedule to fully implement the law by FY2027, provides school districts with resources to provide high quality educational opportunities, and addresses rising costs and administrative challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to the record levels of investment in early education and K-12, the Committee’s budget confronts head on the issue of higher education student costs by providing $175 million for the scholarship reserve, including an additional $37.5 million for the MassGrant and MassGrant Plus programs.
The Committee’s budget also expands access to inclusive education opportunities for young adults with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and codifying the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment grant program. The budget dedicates $4 million in flexible resources for the public higher education system to implement and support inclusive learning options for this diverse student population. Other education investments include:
- $435 million for the special education circuit breaker.
- $243.8 million for charter school reimbursements.
- $82.2 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs, representing a 85% reimbursement rate.
- $10 million for Early College programs and $9 million for the state’s Dual Enrollment initiative, both of which provide high school students with increased opportunities for post-graduate success.
- $2.5 million for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative to help high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 access higher education opportunities; and $1.5 million for the newly created Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Trust Fund.
- $1.5 million for the Genocide Education Trust Fund, fulfilling our commitment to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide and support implementation efforts in accordance with Chapter 98 of the Acts of 2021, An Act Concerning Genocide Education, passed by the Legislature in 2021.
Health, Mental Health & Family Care
For too many—especially children—the post-pandemic world continues to be wrought with uncertainty. To address these concerns, the Senate’s budget focuses on funding a range of services, including social emotional learning (SEL) support for students, domestic violence prevention, substance use disorder treatment, and strengthening our regional boards of health. The budget also supports the expansion of Family Resource Centers (FRCS), which offer resources to families seeking health, safety, educational, and employment services.
The Senate budget funds MassHealth at a total of $18.56 billion, providing more than 2.1 million people with access to affordable and accessible health care services. Other health investments include:
- $514.3 million for Department of Mental Health adult support services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers.
- $209.3 million for a complete range of substance use disorder treatment and intervention services to support these individuals and their families.
- $112 million for children’s mental health services.
- $56 million for domestic violence prevention services.
- $40.4 million for Early Intervention services, ensuring supports remain accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities.
- for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families.
- to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives.
- for family and adolescent health, including $7.8 million for comprehensive family planning services and $6.7 million to enhance federal Title X family planning funding.
- for grants to support local and regional boards of health, continuing our efforts to build upon the successful State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) Program.
- for emergency department diversion initiatives for children, adolescents, and adults.
- to support student behavioral health services at the University of Massachusetts, state universities and community colleges.
- for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, and $1 million to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students.
- for the Office of the Child Advocate.
- for the Massachusetts Center on Child Wellbeing & Trauma.
- for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused.
- $2 million for grants for improvements in reproductive health access, infrastructure, and safety.
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 includes a record investment in the annual child’s clothing allowance, providing $400 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 2022 to help families move out of deep poverty.
With skilled workers in high demand and job openings plentiful, the Senate’s budget invests more than $100 million to bolster job training programs, help connect unemployed and under-employed people with higher paying jobs and support career services that help students gain access and skills to apply for future jobs. Economic opportunity investments include:
- $356.6 million for Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and $140.7 million for Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) to provide the necessary support as caseloads increase, and lift families and individuals out of so-called ‘deep poverty.’
- $55 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce.
- $30.5 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program.
- $24 million for summer jobs and work-readiness training for at-risk youth.
- $20 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to maintain access to healthy food options for households in need.
- for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program to provide economic support to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system.
- $17 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs.
- $15.4 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase our skilled worker population and provide residents access to career technical training opportunities.
- $7.5 million for community foundations to provide emergency economic relief to historically underserved populations.
- $5 million for the Secure Jobs Connect Progam, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals.
- $4.8 million for the Innovation Pathways program to continue to connect students to trainings and post-secondary opportunities in the industry sector with a focus on STEM fields.
- $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million to continue partnerships with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses.
Based on the Senate’s understanding of the strong link housing security has to positive health and economic outcomes, the Senate FY23 budget invests over $900 million in increased funding for housing stability and homelessness assistance to work towards keeping people in their homes and helping individuals and families find permanent housing solutions.
The budget prioritizes relief for families and individuals who continue to face challenges brought on by both the pandemic and financial insecurity, including $213.2 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters and $210 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), including $60 million carried over from the March supplemental budget. The budget also upholds the emergency-level maximum amount of rental assistance that a household can receive at $10,000. Eligible households facing a housing crisis would also be given access to apply for RAFT and HomeBASE. Other housing investments include:
- $175 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), including $20.7 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2022; the budget also recommends structural program changes that, starting January 1, 2023, will allow households to pay no more than 30% of their income for rent to receive rental vouchers for up to 110% of fair market value.
- $92 million for assistance to local housing authorities.
- $83.3 million for assistance for homeless individuals.
- $56.9 million for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs, bolstering assistance under this program to two years with a per household maximum benefit of $20,000.
- $19.3 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), which provides rental assistance to people with disabilities, including $5.6 million in unspent funds carried forward from FY 2022 and $2.5 million for grants to improve or create accessible affordable housing units.
- $5 million for sponsored-based supportive permanent housing.
- $3.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including $250,000 for homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
The Committee’s budget reflects the Senate’s unwavering support for cities and towns and provides a significant amount of local and regional aid to ensure communities can provide essential services to the public while addressing local impacts caused by the pandemic. This includes $1.231 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $63 million over FY 2022, 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 $45 million, an increase of $10 million over FY 2022. PILOT funding is a vital 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 investments include:
- $96.5 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation systems, including $2.5 million for the implementation of pilot programs for fare innovation and reduction across the state.
- $40.8 million for libraries, including $14.5 million for regional library local aid, $16 million for municipal libraries and $4.7 million for technology and automated resource networks.
- $22 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture and creative economy initiatives.
Senators can file amendments to the Senate Ways and Means recommendations through Friday, May 10, 2022 at 1 p.m. The Senate will then debate the FY23 budget proposal in formal session beginning Tuesday, May 24, 2022.
The FY23 Senate Ways and Means Budget Recommendations are available on the Massachusetts legislature’s website: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/SenateWaysMeansBudget.