On Wednesday, May 14th, the Senate Committee on Ways and Means unveiled a $36.2 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2015, Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) announced. The budget includes funding for core state services, local aid for cities and towns and investments in the critical areas of mental health services, housing and homelessness programs, early education and care, veterans services and public transportation improvements. The budget also takes steps to address challenges that children and families face across the state, including increased funding for substance abuse treatment, recovery and prevention and funding for child welfare services.
“This budget makes important investments in programs that are vital to our children, families and communities,” said Senator Spilka. “These recommendations are a great starting point for a final budget that will protect and serve our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable and encourage continued economic growth across MetroWest and the state.”
Each year, the Governor and the legislature undertake the responsibility of crafting a state budget for the new fiscal year, which begins July 1st. The state budget is an opportunity to support the policies, programs and services necessary to strengthen communities, help vulnerable individuals and families and boost economic development in local communities and state-wide.
“The complicated process of creating a spending plan for the state is a fundamental responsibility of the legislature,” Senator Spilka said. “Through our budget choices, we fund the basic services that keep our cities and towns running, and we are also able to invest in the innovative programs that reflect our values as a society. I look forward to a thoughtful debate next week, informed by ongoing input from advocates and MetroWest residents.”
The proposed budget prioritizes local aid for cities and towns, including funding for MetroWest schools, police and fire departments and other core local services. The budget also fully funds the Special Education Circuit Breaker, which reimburses local school districts for the cost of providing quality education to special needs students, and provides $70.3 million for Regional School Transportation costs.
The budget also provides an $80 million operating subsidy for Regional Transit Authorities and increases support for transportation resources and reforms state-wide.
Senator Spilka has filed several amendments to strengthen the budget and increase funding for programs that serve MetroWest residents and communities. These amendments include, but are not limited to:
- $100,000 to help the Best Buddies Massachusetts program to extend inclusion programming in schools to reduce the isolation that individuals with intellectual disabilities often experience and help them to build life-long social skills.
- $1,000,000 in additional funding for the STEM Pipeline Fund, which encourages and trains students across the state to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
- $500,000 additional funding to increase access to assistive technologies devices that allow individuals with severe disabilities to live independently.
- $750,000 to support the operation of the state’s 11 Independent Living Centers.
- $3.7 million and language to ensure the necessary funding for the implementation of a network of family resource centers providing services to children struggling with behavioral, mental health and substance abuse issues. The family resource centers are part of a years’ long effort to create a new Families and Children Engaged in Services (FACES) system to better serve troubled youth and their families.
- $4.5 million in additional funding for One-Stop Career Centers, to offer additional training and skills transfer programs essential to increasing employment in the state.
- $250,000 for the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation’s lay-off aversion program, specifically designed to prevent layoffs at small businesses by providing targeted consultant assistance and alternatives to keep workers in their present jobs or quickly move them to comparable new jobs.
- Lowering the threshold for non-profit organizations to obtain specialty license plates, allowing more charitable organizations in the state to benefit from this source of fundraising revenue.
- $16.6 million for a human services salary reserve, necessary for a modest salary increase for direct care workers, who work tirelessly on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents and are a critical component of the state’s human services safety net.
Senators will propose amendments to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means budget recommendations through Friday afternoon, in order to further support critical programs and services and identify additional priority areas. The full Senate will debate these amendments and vote on a final budget next week.Submitted by the Office of State Sen. Karen Spilka.