Senate Ways and Means Releases Fiscal Year 2025 Budget Recommendations

Senate makes historic investments in early education and care and college success, prioritizes regional equity, maintains strong fiscal responsibility

(BOSTON—5/7/2024) The Senate Committee on Ways and Means on Tuesday 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.

“The Senate’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2025 recognizes fiscal restraints the state is facing, while ensuring critical services and programs that our residents rely on each day are upheld,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget creates transformational access to higher education, opens avenues to leverage federal funds to support our healthcare system, and makes targeted investments in areas that allows residents to thrive. This fiscally responsible approach taken by the Senate is one the Commonwealth’s residents can be proud of.”

The Committee’s budget recommends a total of $57.9 billion in spending, a $1.8 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2024 (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.… Read more.

Friedman Votes for Senate Bill Authorizing $375 Million for Local Transportation Infrastructure 

Chapter 90 funding would support cities and towns with road and bridge construction, public transit improvement, and EV infrastructure 

BOSTON (4/11/2024)—Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) and the Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved $375 million in bond authorizations for statewide transportation projects, including the state’s Chapter 90 program, which would create a reliable funding source for local infrastructure investments like roads, bridges, regional transit equipment and infrastructure, bicycle infrastructure, and electric vehicle infrastructure, among other things.  

Projects funded by the annual legislation often improve quality of life for residents in every region of the state, and many play a role in environmental mitigation.  

Every city and town in the Commonwealth would receive a share of $200 million in funding to be used on maintenance and construction of roads and bridges. $150 million would be allocated equally to six programs targeting specific transportation infrastructure, and $25 million would be allocated to cities and towns through the rural roads program.  

“The annual Chapter 90 funding bill is our Commonwealth’s commitment to safe, accessible, and well-maintained transportation systems across Massachusetts,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committe on Ways and Means. “Ensuring our communities have adequate resources for common transportation, while also incentivizing transportation goals such as Complete Streets and supporting mainstream use of electric vehicles, is so vital, and Chapter 90 funding is just one of the ways the Massachusetts Legislature helps keep our residents moving.” 

Of the $375 million in total authorizations, the legislation would allocate $25 million to each of the following programs that target specific infrastructure areas:  

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Friedman, Senate Overwhelmingly Pass Legislation to Increase the Commonwealth’s Competitive Advantage

Legislation leverages Stabilization Fund interest to compete for federal funds for transportation, housing, climate and economic development projects  

BOSTON (01/11/2024) – Today, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate to pass S.2548, An Act to provide for competitiveness and infrastructure investment in Massachusetts, an economic development bill that takes advantage of the interest accrued from the Commonwealth’s Stabilization Fund and leverages that interest to ensure the state receives the maximum possible share of federal funds. The Commonwealth’s Stabilization fund currently has a historic balance of $8.2 billion. 

It is estimated Massachusetts currently has the opportunity to receive up to $17.5 billion through historic, once-in-a-generation federal funding opportunities. 

“Our action in the Senate today is both fiscally responsible and prudent as we invest in the future of the Commonwealth,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “By maintaining a healthy reserve balance in the Commonwealth Stabilization Fund, while also allowing the interest the fund generates to match grants for federal funding opportunities, this legislation opens a key tool for the state to stay competitive and help fund projects that will have a positive impact on residents of Massachusetts for years to come.” 

This smart financial accounting initiative will require the Comptroller to transfer interest from the stabilization fund to the Commonwealth Federal Matching and Debt Reduction Fund on a quarterly basis if the stabilization balance is of a healthy amount. The Secretary of Administration and Finance would then pursue federal funding opportunities available thanks to the historic availability of federal funds for infrastructure, resiliency and economic development projects. … Read more.

Friedman Supports Wheelchair Warranty Reform Passed by Massachusetts Senate

Bill extends wheelchair warranties, requires faster repairs and replacements, bringing Massachusetts in line with neighboring states  

BOSTON (1/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate voted to strengthen consumer protections for wheelchair users. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) joined her colleagues to move the legislation forward with a unanimous vote. 

An Act expanding wheelchair warranty protections for consumers with disabilities—S.2541requires all wheelchairs to come with warranties, extends the minimum warranty period to two years, sets standards for wheelchair repairs and replacements, and eliminates the cumbersome prior authorization process for all wheelchair repairs under $1,000.  

“Ensuring that wheelchairs, an essential medical device, have strong warranty protections is so important as we continue to work towards making the Commonwealth a more inclusive place for all our residents” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “I am proud that the Senate passed this legislation again this session to improve the accessibility of our state in an equitable fashion, and I hope it will become law this year.”  

The legislation, which has received strong support from disability advocates in Massachusetts, requires all wheelchairs sold or leased in the Commonwealth to come with express warranties—a change from the current law, which only requires customized wheelchairs to come with express warranties. The legislation also extends express warranties for wheelchairs from one year to two years, bringing Massachusetts in line with states like Rhode Island and Connecticut. To alleviate wait times for repairs, the bill mandates that wheelchair service providers diagnose repair issues remotely within three business days following notice from a consumer and provide an in-person assessment no more than four business days after that.   … Read more.

Friedman Votes With Senate Colleagues to Pass Legislation Legalizing Fentanyl Test Strips

Commonsense harm reduction strategy proven to encourage safer consumption behavior, save lives 

BOSTON (1/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate debated and unanimously passed An Act relative to fentanyl test strips—S.2543legislation to help prevent overdoses and save lives by making legal the sale, possession, and distribution of fentanyl test strips, and other testing equipment used to identify fentanyl, in the Commonwealth. Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), a long-time advocate of harm reduction policies, voted to pass the measure. 

If passed into law, the bill would add a potent tool to support drug users in knowing whether they are consuming fentanyl. Fentanyl test strips are a proven harm reduction strategy that have been shown to help drug users engage in less risky behavior, including by discarding drugs, reducing doses, using drugs more slowly, using drugs with someone else around, or keeping naloxone nearby.   

“Since taking office in 2017, I’ve been vocal about the need to implement policies that promote harm reduction for vulnerable residents struggling with substance use,” said Senator Friedman, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing. “This legislation, like other actions we’ve taken as a state, would reduce harm in a way that is easy to use and is not cost prohibitive. I will continue to support commonsense measures like this that save lives and give those struggling with substance use disorder a better chance at recovery.” 

Fentanyl-related overdoses are far too frequent in Massachusetts. Between October 1, 2022, and September 30, 2023, 2,323 people suffered from overdoses in Massachusetts, and in the first three months of 2023, fentanyl was present in 93% of fatal overdoses.… Read more.

“Blue Envelope” Bill Supporting People With Autism Passes Senate

Legislation would help facilitate better interactions between people with autism and law enforcement officers 

BOSTON (1/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate unanimously passed An Act facilitating better interactions between police officers and persons with autism spectrum disorder—also known as the “Blue Envelope” bill—to improve communication during traffic stops involving a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  

The bill would create a voluntary program that would make available blue envelopes that people with autism could carry with them while driving and hand over to a police officer in the event that they are pulled over. A driver could place their license, registration, and insurance cards inside the envelope, and the outside of the envelope would note that the driver has Autism Spectrum Disorder and provide guidance on best practices on how to interact with the individual.  

The envelope’s guidance—which would be created by a coalition of advocates, Chiefs of Police, and the RMV—would help law enforcement officers to better understand the actions of individuals with autism, who are more likely to have increased sensitivities and communication challenges in stressful situations. 

“The Blue Envelope bill would provide a subtle, yet meaningful mechanism to ensure that drivers with Autism Spectrum Disorder can remain comfortable and communicate calmly in situations that have the potential to cause significant stress, such as interactions with members of law enforcement during traffic stops,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This is a simple solution that will have a hugely beneficial impact on neuro-diverse drivers and law enforcement officers across the Commonwealth.” … Read more.