On Wednesday, April 26, 2023, Representative Connolly joined his colleagues to engross the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) state budget.
Funded at $56.2 billion, this budget provides support for the Commonwealth’s cities and towns and makes many critical investments, including additional funding for education, transportation, health care, housing, and workforce development. The budget also includes several policy changes, the permanent extension of several pandemic-era programs, the inclusion of two of Rep. Connolly’s local funding priorities, and the investment of Fair Share Amendment revenue. Highlights include:
- No Cost Calls. The House budget removes barriers to communication services for incarcerated persons and their loved ones. The Department of Correction (DOC) and sheriffs must provide phone calls at no cost to persons receiving and initiating phone calls, without a cap on the number of minutes or calls. As part of this initiative, DOC and sheriffs must maximize purchasing power and seek to consolidate voice communication services contracts.
- Universal Free School Meals. The House budget includes a provision requiring public schools to provide universal school meals to all students free of charge, making Massachusetts the sixth state in the country to make the program permanent. Due to this program, which the House has extended each year since the COVID-19 pandemic began, 56,000 additional children ate school lunch daily in October 2022 compared to October 2019.
- Eviction Protection. The House budget makes permanent a pandemic-era eviction protection for renters with pending applications for emergency rental assistance under RAFT or any other program administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development, a municipality, or a nonprofit entity. Under the program, a judge cannot execute an eviction before an emergency rental assistance application has been approved or denied. You can read more about this policy here.
- Cambridge HEART and Somerville Green Jobs programs. The House budget includes two of Rep. Connolly’s local funding priorities. $30,000 will be appropriated to help launch a green jobs training program for non-traditional students in Somerville and $30,000 will be appropriated to help build Cambridge HEART’s capacity to offer 24/7 emergency response alternatives.
Additionally, many constituents and advocacy organizations called and sent emails about their priorities. Thank you to everyone who reached out! The following is a sample of that advocacy and each account's outcome in the final House version:
|Line Item||Description||Governor's Proposal||Ask||Final House|
|0321-1600||MLAC (Civil Legal Aid)||$49 million||$49 million||$49 million|
|7004-9316||RAFT (Rental Assistance)||$162.5 million||$250 million||$180.6 million|
|7004-9024||MRVP (Rental Assistance)||$168.2 million||$250 million||$173.2 million|
|7061-9634||Mentoring Matching Grants||$1.5 million||$1.8 million||$1.2 million|
|3000-1042||Early Education Rate Reimbursement||$20 million||$100 million||$80 million|
|3000-1045||Commonwealth Cares for Children Grants||$375 million||$472 million||$250 million|
|3000-5000||Head Start||$15 million||$17.5 million||$17.5 million|
|3000-6025||Commonwealth Preschool Partnership||$15 million||$30 million||$15 million|
|4401-1000||Employment Support Services for Immigrants||Not included||$3 million||$1.5 million|
|7035-0002||Adult Language Learners||$60 million||$70 million||$65.325 million|
|4003-0122||Citizenship for New Americans Program||$1.04 million||$1.76 million||$1.04 million|
In addition, the budget uses $1 billion in anticipated Fair Share Amendment revenue, funding spilt evenly between education and transportation initiatives. Revenue from this change will supplement existing funding and will be directed to a new Education and Transportation Fund, then distributed to the following programs:
|Universal School Meals||$161,000,000||MBTA Capital Investments||$250,000,000|
|Green School Works||$100,000,000||Highway Bridge Preservation||$100,000,000|
|MassGrant+||$84,000,000||Regional Transit Funding & Grants Electrification||$70,000,000|
|High Demand Targeted Scholarships||$50,000,000||MBTA Workforce/Safety Reserve||$65,000,000|
|C3 Stabilization Grants||$40,000,000||Water Transportation||$10,000,000|
|Income Eligible Waitlist||$25,000,000||MBTA Means-Tested Fares||$5,000,000|
MBTA Safety Spending. To address ongoing safety concerns at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) that have been identified by the Federal Transit Administration’s Safety Management Inspection, this budget allocates $65 million, as well as $250 million for capital projects, and $5 million to explore the feasibility of implementing a means-tested fare program.
The House Committee on Ways & Means introduced their FY24 budget proposal on April 12, 2023, following a review of the Governor’s proposal and a series of public hearings. The budget passed the House of Representatives 156-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration. Keep reading for a summary of the spending and policy provisions by category.
The FY24 House budget funds Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) at $1.250 billion and Chapter 70 education funding at $6.584 billion. The budget funds the third year of a six-year implementation plan for the Student Opportunity Act (SOA), which was enacted in 2019 to ensure that public schools have the resources needed to provide high-quality education to students across the state, regardless of zip code or income level. It provides an additional $30 per pupil in minimum aid supplements, bringing the minimum aid total to $60 per pupil. Additionally, the budget includes the following education initiatives:
- $506 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program
- $233 million for charter school aid
- $108 million for regional school transportation$
- 29 million for homeless student transportation
The House budget also increases the limit on the amount of grant funding that can be approved by the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) from $800 million to $1.1 billion for school building construction and renovation projects.
Early Education and Care
To continue the House’s longstanding commitment towards investing in the early education and care (EEC) workforce, the House budget includes $100 million in rate increases for subsidized childcare providers across the Commonwealth.
To create a new funding source for EEC, the budget passed today would allow the Massachusetts Lottery to sell its products online. Part of the new revenue collected from online sales, estimated to be $200 million annually, would go to an Early Education and Care Operational Grant Fund to fund Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants, which provides long-term stability for high-quality and affordable care for families. Additionally, the budget requires the Department of Early Education and Care to report on the current C3 grant formula and make recommendations to ensure they are providing optimal results for families and communities with the greatest needs.
Additionally, this budget creates Green School Works, a competitive grant program for projects related to installation and maintenance of clean energy infrastructure at public schools. The program will be administered by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and preference will be given to schools serving low-income and environmental justice populations.
Other early education and care investments include:
- $714 million for child care for children involved with the Department of Children & Families, Department of Transitional Assistance, and for low-income families
- $490 million for Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants
- $20 million for child care resource and referral agencies
- $17.5 million for Head Start grants
- $10 million for early education and care provider higher education opportunities
- $5 million for early childhood mental health grants
Higher Education and Job Training
This budget expands the current High Demand Scholarship program, which encourages degree completion in disciplines that will help to address the workforce development challenges facing the Commonwealth. This expansion will provide financial assistance to students pursuing graduate, undergraduate, or certificate programs for in-demand professions at public institutions of higher education. After graduation, students who accept this financial assistance are required to work in an in-demand industry in Massachusetts for five years.
The House budget allocates $692 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $338 million for community colleges, and $327 million for state universities. Other higher education investments include:
- $175 million for scholarship funding
- $20 million to provide free community college to students over the age of 25 to complete their education and training (MassReconnect)
- $15 million for early college
- $14 million for the Community College SUCCESS fund
- $12 million for dual enrollment
The budget also includes large investments in youth engagement programs, job training and workforce development, including:
- $65 million for adult basic education services
- $31 million for summer jobs for at-risk youth
- $29.4 million for career technical institutes
- $15 million for one-stop career centers
- $5 million for career and technical education grants
- $5 million for higher education innovation fund grants
- $9 million school-to-career connecting activities
- $2 million high-demand scholarship program
- $20 million for the Department of Transitional Assistance Employment and Training Services
- $19 million for Labor and Workforce Development Shared Services
- $17 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund
- $15 million for One Stop Career Center
- $5 million for registered Apprenticeship Expansion
Additionally, the budget maintains the House’s commitment to help protect renters and homeowners across the Commonwealth from eviction and homelessness by making the following investments:
- $181 million for Rental Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)
- $173 million for Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
- $111 million for programs for unhoused individuals
- $102 million for Housing Authority subsidies for public housing
- $10 million for shelter workforce assistance
The House budget includes $19.81 billion for MassHealth, representing the largest investment made in the state budget. MassHealth has experienced a significant caseload increase since February 2020, when federal law required states to suspend eligibility redeterminations and maintain coverage for all members during the federal public health emergency. Preparing for the end of the federal Public Health Emergency on May 11, 2023, MassHealth started an eligibility redetermination process on April 1, 2023, that will result in a significant decrease in the number of residents receiving MassHealth benefits.
Anticipating that many residents will lose MassHealth coverage due to the redetermination process, the House budget establishes a two-year pilot program extending eligibility for ConnectorCare to individuals with incomes of up to 500% of the Federal Poverty Limit, potentially increasing the total number of individuals that are enrolled in ConnectorCare from 47,000 to 70,000 members. The House’s budget also eliminates the asset cap for seniors enrolled in the Medicare Savings Program.
The House’s FY24 budget allocates $1 million for the University of Massachusetts’ acquisition of abortion medication, such as Mifepristone, as national access to abortion medication is currently a pending issue in the court system.
Additionally, the House budget mandates coverage for, at no out-of-pocket cost for consumers, preventative health care services, such as certain cancer screenings and HIV preventive medications (PrEP), which were jeopardized by a recent federal court ruling in Texas.
The House FY24 budget invests in the human services workforce, which provides services to our most vulnerable residents, including $173 million for Chapter 257 rates for health and human service workers, $112 million for rate increases to nursing facilities, $26 million for rate increases to targeted providers, including non-emergent ambulance services and substance use disorder treatment, $2.8 million for the Quality Home Care Workforce Council and $1 million for the Nursing and Allied Health Workforce Development program. Program investments include:
- $315.3 million for the Children’s Behavioral Health Initiative
- $30 million for the Children’s Medical Security Plan
Public Health and Mental Health
The House budget proposes funding the Department of Public Health at $962 million and the Department of Mental Health at $1.12 billion. Investments include:
- $584.9 million for adult support services
- $208.2 million for the Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS)
- $117.9 million for children's mental health
- $42.9 million for the Early Intervention program
- $1.25 million for prostate cancer awareness, education, and research
Energy and Environmental Affairs
The combined funding for all environment and climate-related items in the FY24 House budget is $700 million, distributed across 15 departments. The Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is funded at $464.6 million. Including:
- $25 million for Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) for the continued development of the clean energy industry in the Commonwealth
- $25 million for food security infrastructure for a grant program for Massachusetts food producers
- $10 million for climate adaptation and preparedness
- $8.8 million for environmental justice initiatives
The House budget continues to invest in programs and policies to uphold our commitment to criminal justice reform, reducing recidivism, access to justice and inmate services, including:
- $19.2 million for the Municipal Police Training Committee, which provides standardized trainings to all sworn Massachusetts law enforcement officers
- $8.5 million for the POST Commission which provides mandatory certification, training, and discipline to all Massachusetts law enforcement officers
- $3.75 million for reentry workforce development and support services
- $7 million for housing assistance for re-entry transition