Ensures adequate funding for school districts, RTAs, police training, behavioral health and more
BOSTON (07/29/21) – Today, the Massachusetts Senate overturned Governor Baker’s vetoes on certain items in the Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22) budget passed in the Legislature earlier this month. The actions taken by the Senate will ensure adequate funding for school districts, regional transit authorities (RTAs), and public and mental health supports, as well as the implementation of last year’s landmark police reform bill. Additionally, action by the Senate reinstates certain guidance relevant to state bodies such as the MBTA and prison facilities.
“Overriding the Governor’s vetoes on parts of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget was necessary to safeguard the health and wellness of some of our most vulnerable populations,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “These vetoes allow the Disability Law Center to continue to play an important role in protecting persons served at Bridgewater State Hospital, as well as restore funding for a crucial study to help us analyze the existing and anticipated impacts of the pandemic on children’s behavioral health. I would like to thank Senate President Spilka, Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and my colleagues for their swift action in reinstating these vital provisions.”
Many of the Governor’s vetoes were cost-cutting measures deemed unnecessary by the Legislature in light of the state’s need to invest in crucial programs and services. Gubernatorial vetoes threatened $150,000 in funding for the children’s behavioral health advisory council, as well as $150,000 for Emergency Family Assistance Shelters. With the Legislature’s overrides, these funds are now restored.
To offset the cost of charter schools on school districts, the Senate reinstated a policy of 100 per cent charter school tuition reimbursement for school districts which have reached the spending cap on charter schools, thereby providing $2.9 million to school districts across the Commonwealth. For local transportation, $3.5 million is reinstated to enable Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to operate effectively as use of public transportation picks back up.
Last year’s omnibus police reform legislation, An Act relative to justice, equity and accountability in law enforcement in the Commonwealth, included provisions requiring cities and towns in Massachusetts to follow new officer training standards. In line with this, the Legislature set aside $1 million in funding to pay cities and towns for costs incurred by new training programs, which the Governor vetoed entirely. Overriding this veto reinstates this funding so that cities and towns can be compliant with the police reform law without additional financial burden.
Citing fiscal concerns, the Senate also voted to further delay implementation of a tax deduction for charitable donations until at least 2023.
The Fiscal Year 2022 budget conference report included two transfers of FY22 funds to help support known obligations that the Commonwealth will face in the future: fully funding the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) and unfunded state pension obligations. The Governor sent an amendment back asserting that there may not be sufficient surplus funds to make the transfers as proposed and recommended using FY21 funds instead. Instead, the Senate adopted a further amendment that suggests funding these transfers to the highest level possible given actual revenues at the time the transfer is to take place, thus providing flexibility to react to an uncertain future revenue picture, while still requiring surplus funded to be dedicated to cover these future obligations.
In addition to funding projects across the Commonwealth, the actions taken by the Senate encourages the MBTA to develop ‘shovel-ready projects,’ or projects in their final stages of development, in anticipation of incoming federal dollars and their requirements. Guidance on releasing, transitioning, or furloughing inmates from Massachusetts prisons in a timely manner was also reinstated.
Having previously been passed by the House, the overrides now return to the Governor’s desk with a veto-proof majority.