The House finished debate on the FY18 state budget this week. Here is a quick (sort of!) recap of some highlights and the process.
The House budget, approved on a bipartisan and nearly unanimous vote (159-1) totals $40.41 billion, an increase of 3.99% over the previous fiscal year or about $100 million less than Governor Baker’s initial FY18 budget plan.
The budget includes a $100 million transfer to the state stabilization (‘Rainy Day”) fund and a $200 million increase to reduce our long-term pension obligations. Major areas of new investment include local aid accounts, substance abuse treatment, housing and homelessness prevention and developmental services. One of the biggest cost driver continues to be health care costs and the Mass. Health program.
The House Ways & Means Committee (which I serve on) released its budget in the beginning of April. The Ways & Means budget serves as the basis for budget debate and then the full House has opportunity to offer amendments which is what occureed this week.
There were over 1,200 amendments filed during House floor debate. Of these, I filed 16 amendments and co-sponsored an additional 85 amendments. We are required to balance the budget every year so clearly we can’t fund every priority and not all of my amendments were successful. But we do all try to push extra resources to areas we think are important and which will benefit our region. Below is a rundown on some of the successful amendments that were included in the final House budget.
Thank you to my House colleagues for supporting the following budget amendments which I filed: $50,000 for technology improvements in the Pembroke Public Schools, $20,000 for treatment of Wampatuck Pond in Hanson, $25,000 for a Pembroke soup kitchen/food pantry, $25,000 for public safety improvements in the town of Pembroke.
Some of the successful amendments filed by my South Shore colleagues which I was pleased to co-sponsor include: $100,000 for the Project Interface mental health referral service (which includes Duxbury & Pembroke); $35,000 for treatment and testing of Monponsett Pond in Halifax & Hanson; $50,000 for Central Plymouth County Water District (which includes Pembroke & Hanson); $50,000 for Plymouth 400th; $200,000 for mosquito control in Plymouth & Bristol County, $200,000 for Nathan Hale Veterans Outreach Center (serving veterans in Plymouth County) Thanks to Reps. Cantwell, Calter, D’Emilia and Muratore for their efforts here.
Many other budget amendments were broader in scope and have an impact across the Commonwealth. I was pleased to support amendments to increase funding for Mass. Civil Legal Aid (0321-1600) which was increased by $500,000; Early Educators Rate Increase (3000-1042) which was increased by $5 million; YMCA Youth at Risk program (4590-1507) which was increased by $500,000; DCR state parks (2810-0100) increased by $1.9 million, Regional Transit Authorities (like GATRA), (1595-6370) increased by $1 million; Alzheimers public awareness campaign (4513-1111) added $100,000; Blue Hills Trailside Museum, added $25,000; Mass. Cultural Councils (0640-0300) increase by $2 million; and Prostrate Cancer Research (4590-0925) increased by $250,000.
In addition to various line items of the budget there are what is called outside sections, which are generally more policy related items. Some of the outside sections included in the House budget include a new $500 or $1,000 “bonus” for veterans; a new Conservation Land Tax Credit to spur land preservation; and the creation of a Community Benefits District to allow property owners to elect to form an entity to undertake shared goals. It also included a provision I co-sponsored to protect municipal ambulance services.
A full list of all the amendments and their status is available on the Mass. House website here: https://malegislature.gov/Budget/FY2018/HouseDebate/Amendments/
You can also follow along through the entire budget process and browse all budget documents, amendments, rolls calls and floor action here: http://www.mahouse.gov/ (click on budget in top menu)