The Mass. House of Representatives yesterday passed its Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget. This budget responsibly responds to the needs of residents and makes targeted investments to support families in the Commonwealth. Funded at $49.73 billion, the House’s FY23 budget continues its strong commitment to cities and towns, and includes significant investments in health care, education, housing, and workforce development, among other priorities.
“The House budget responds to the economic challenges currently facing Massachusetts residents by balancing a focus on immediate needs such as workforce development, with a focus on long-term investments that are designed to grow our economy in a sustainable way,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy).
“This budget builds off the successes of the last few years and prioritizes our residents,” said Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means (D-Boston). “By reinvesting in the people of the Commonwealth we will continue to assist those recovering from this pandemic while making our economy stronger and more equitable for years to come. I want to thank Speaker Mariano for his leadership during this budget process, as well as my Vice-Chair Ann-Margaret Ferrante, and the entire membership for their thoughts and guidance over the last few months to make this a more successful and well-rounded budget.”
The House FY23 budget expands services without raising taxes and is made possible due to strong revenue collections and increased federal reimbursement. Due to responsible financial leadership, the state’s Stabilization Fund is estimated to stand at $6.55 billion.
The FY23 House budget includes an unprecedented $912 million to fund early education and care (EEC). Continuing its longstanding commitment to invest in the workforce, the budget includes a $70 million in rate increases for subsidized child care providers across the Commonwealth, representing a $50 million increase over FY22. It also includes a new initiative funded at $10 million to pay for child care for early educators. Following the recommendations issued by the Special Legislative Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission, the budget includes language requiring the Department of Early Education and Care to base reimbursement on enrollment rather than attendance. Early education and care funding initiatives include:
· $16.5 million for Head Start grants;
· $15 million for child care resource and referral agencies;
· $10 million for EEC higher education provider opportunities;
· $5 million to provide additional navigation support and outreach to families;
· $3 million for early childhood mental health grants; and
· $1 million for Neighborhood Villages to provide bilingual workforce training, instructional coaching, and COVID-19 testing.
The FY23 House budget funds Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) at $1.199 billion and Chapter 70 education funding at $5.988 billion, representing a $494 million increase over the FY22 budget and fully funding the second year of a six-year implementation plan of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) which was enacted in 2019 to support equitable funding for our most vulnerable students.
The budget also provides $110 million for a year-long extension of universal school meals, providing immediate relief to families by saving them up to $1,200 every year from reduced grocery expenditures, according to The Feed Kids Coalition. Additional education funding allocations include:
· $440 million for Special Education Circuit Breaker;
· $243 million for charter school aid, fully funding charter school reimbursement;
· $77 million for regional transportation; and
· $22 million for homeless student transportation.
The House budget invests in higher education by allocating $653 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $337 million for community colleges, and $326 million for state universities. Building on Speaker Mariano’s priority to ensure Massachusetts residents from diverse backgrounds have access to meaningful educational opportunities the budget also includes a $25.5 million increase in scholarship funding over the last fiscal year for a new total of $156 million, and funds the community colleges SUCCESS Fund at $14 million and the STEM Starter Academies at $4.75 million.
The budget also includes large investments in youth engagement programs, job training and workforce development, including:
· $60 million for adult education to support English Language Learners and adults working towards their GED;
· $28.3 million for the YouthWorks jobs program to fund over 6,000 summer and year-round jobs for youth in low-wage-earning and fixed-income families;
· $25.7 million for workforce support for K-12 schools;
· $20.4 million for Career Technical Institutes to train workers and allow them to close skills gaps and meet the needs of businesses across the Commonwealth;
· $17 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund;
· $15 million for One Stop Career Centers to connect individuals with training and employers;
· $1 million investment in Learn to Earn; and
· $1 million for the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund.
Additionally, the House budget invests in programs across departments to support workforce equity in Massachusetts that help diverse communities and employers succeed. New initiatives include:
· $20 million for a loan forgiveness program within the Department of Mental Health to support their workforce;
· $15 million to support teachers of color, including $7.5 million for Tomorrow’s Teachers program to provide scholarships to people committed to teaching in public schools and $7.5 million for loan repayment for teachers of color;
· $10 million for loan repayment and bonuses for the homeless shelter workforce that continue to provide critical services to the most vulnerable populations; and
· $1 million for a public awareness campaign to ensure all communities can utilize these programs.
The Commonwealth’s commitment to MassHealth remains one of the largest drivers of the budget. In FY23, the House is providing $18.40 billion to fully fund its caseload, which has increased as more residents became eligible during the pandemic. The House’s FY23 budget accurately reflects this enrollment growth due to the federal extension of the public health emergency, showing the necessary increase in spending beyond what was included in the Governor’s budget proposal, while also factoring in the increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) reimbursement levels.
The budget prepares for the transition of individuals from MassHealth to the Health Connector when the federal public health emergency ends by providing $50 million for a Connector Care Pilot Program, which utilizes savings from the American Rescue Plan Act to fund subsidized health insurance plans for members that are between 300%-500% of the federal poverty level (FPL) for two years. It also invests $37 million to expand eligibility for the Medicare Savings Program to 250% FPL.
The House FY23 budget invests in the human services workforce who provide services to our most vulnerable, including $230 million for Chapter 257 rates for health and human service workers, $40 million to continue higher rate add-ons and ensure a smaller wage cliff between FY22 and FY23 for home health aides and homemakers, and $1 million for the Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development program. Additional investments include funding for programming such as the Elder Mental Health Outreach Teams, the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative Expansion, nine Elder Supportive Housing Sites, and the SHINE Program. The budget fully funds Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children at $343 million, as well as Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children at $137 million.
The House budget reflects the commitment to supporting health and behavioral health needs across the Commonwealth. Investments include:
· $10 million to expand emergency diversion boarding programs within the Department of Mental Health;
· $188.6 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services;
· $12.5 million for behavioral health supports; and
· $48.3 million for early intervention services, with dedicated funding to help its workforce recover from the pandemic.
The House FY23 budget includes funding for housing and homelessness prevention, investing $150 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), $140 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), $100 million for homeless individuals, $92 million for housing authority subsidies, and $59.4 million for HomeBASE.
The budget funds the Department of Developmental Services at $2.44 billion, aimed to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. It includes $278.4 million for Community Day and Work Programs, $90.6 million for respite services, $42.3 million in autism supports and services, $33.9 million in transportation services, $13.9 million for the autism division, and $1.8 million for supportive technology for individuals.
To ensure every resident has equal access to the criminal justice system, the House’s FY23 budget includes a $824.6 million investment in the Trial Court, $39.5 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation, and increases for Prisoners’ Legal Services and Mental Health Legal Advisors. The budget also upholds commitments made by the Legislature’s criminal justice reform, such as $11.3 million for community-based residential re-entry programs and establishes an Employment Services Division within Probation funded at $2.2 million. Other investments include:
· $24 million for re-entry and recidivism reduction programs;
· $5.8 million for five new commissions created by the police reform law and a police reform reserve;
· $11.6 million for the Municipal Police Training Council, which will provide standardized training to all sworn law enforcement officers;
· $2 million for a new pilot program to provide rent subsidies to formerly incarcerated individuals returning to the community;
· $27.5 million for probation community corrections centers;
· $11.2 million for residential reentry programs;
· $6 million for Emerging Adults Recidivism Reduction Grant Program;
· $3.8 million for Demonstration Workforce; and
· $3.6 million for the creation of two new After Incarceration Support Centers, modeled off the Hampden County Center
After three days of debate and over a thousand proposed amendments, the budget passed the House of Representatives 155-0 and now goes to the Senate for their consideration.