Special to The Journal
The Massachusetts Legislature unanimously passed a $52.7 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). This budget upholds fiscal responsibility and makes targeted investments to strengthen the state’s economic foundation, protect the most vulnerable residents and support the everyday needs of communities and families in the Commonwealth.
“I want to thank Leadership in both the House and Senate for their help and support in securing multiple earmarks for the Sixteenth Suffolk District,” said Representative Jessica Ann Giannino (D-Revere). “State funding was so desperately needed by the communities within my district, especially after emerging from the economic damages caused by the pandemic, thus I am proud to announce that I was able to secure the following budget items with the help of Senator Lydia Edwards, which include: over one million dollars for State Police Troop A for directed patrols throughout Revere beach, $50,000 for the Robert J. Haas Health and Wellness Center, $50,000 for the City of Revere’s Food Systems Hub, and $25,000 for an ATV for the Town of Saugus Fire Department. I also want to thank my colleagues, Representatives Turco and Wong for their continued teamwork and support.”
“In those rare years where the Commonwealth finds itself flush with surplus revenues and unused federal funds, passing a comprehensive budget that allocates significant resources to cities and towns is of paramount importance. Fortunately, that is just what the Legislature did in FY 2023,” said Representative Jeffrey Rosario Turco (D-Winthrop). “Winthrop and Revere are set to benefit from the influx of cash with funding set aside for numerous important projects in both localities, including upgrades to the Robert J. Haas Health and Wellness Center in Revere and the introduction of a child safety program in Winthrop. Now that the allocation phase is complete, our job as legislators is to ensure the plans set forth in the budget are carried out to fruition. I look forward to working with constituents, local officials and my colleagues in the Legislature to bring this budget to life.”
“I was proud to secure funding for so many vital services, projects, and community events in the City Of Revere, including $10,000 for the Revere Police Department, $50,000 for the Revere Sand Sculpting Festival, $50,000 for the Revere Substance Abuse and Homeless Initiatives Office, $50,000 for Women Encouraging Empowerment, $50,000 for the Belle Isle Marsh, as well as millions of dollars in bonding” said Senator Lydia Edwards (D-Boston). “This year the Commonwealth received a massive infusion of federal funds from ARPA & COVID relief, additionally tax revenues were higher than expected. We must take full advantage of this surplus and reinvest in our communities”
Notably, the Legislature provides significant funds in the FY23 budget to invest in the Commonwealth’s long-term future obligations. Prioritizing funding for education, this budget includes $175 million in a newly created High-Quality Early Education and Care Affordability Trust Fund to be utilized in the coming years to support the implementation of the recommendations made by the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission. Additionally, a supplemental payment of $150 million is included to the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) Investment fund, bringing its balance up to $500 million, ensuring resources will be utilized in the future to support equitable funding for our most vulnerable students.
The budget strongly reflects the Legislature’s commitment to support cities and towns and provides a significant amount of local and regional aid to ensure communities can provide essential services to the public while rebuilding from a once-in-a-generation pandemic. This includes $1.231 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $63 million over FY22, and $45 million in payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land, an increase of $10 million over FY22, providing supplemental local aid payments to cities and towns working to improve access to essential services and programs.
The FY23 budget includes $187 million to fund the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) as well as $226.2 million for a safety and workforce reserve to address ongoing safety concerns identified by the Federal Transit Administration’s Safety Management Inspection.
As a cornerstone of the Commonwealth’s economic foundation, the FY23 budget expands access to educational opportunity and strongly supports students, families, educators, and institutions. The budget also reflects a strong to commitment to early education and care, investing $1.18 billion into this sector, including $365 million in new resources to begin implementation of recommendations made by the Early Education and Care Economic Review Commission.
The budget invests in higher education, allocating $670 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $352 million for community colleges, and $328 million for state universities.
Other education investments include:
• $441 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker
Recognizing that health care makes up more than 40 percent of our annual state budget, the Legislature’s FY23 budget sustains support for the state’s safety net by funding MassHealth at a total of $19.48 billion, ensuring over 2.1 million people with continued access to comprehensive health care services.
The FY23 budget invests in the human services workforce who provide services to the state’s most vulnerable residents, 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.
Funding a range of services to help those struggling and in need, the FY23 budget invests $218.2 for substance use disorder and intervention services provided by the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services and more importantly, addresses the mental health crisis in Massachusetts by creating the Behavioral Health Access and Crisis Intervention Trust Fund, which will fund crisis supports and a new behavioral health crisis hotline.
Building on the foundation of last year’s efforts to tackle deep poverty, the FY23 budget supports working families struggling with the economic toll associated with rising costs and includes a record investment in the annual child’s clothing allowance, providing $400 per child for eligible families to buy clothes for the upcoming school year. The budget also includes a 10 percent increase to Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) benefit levels compared to June 2022 to ensure the economic supports necessary to provide stability to families across the state.
For the first time ever, the FY23 budget removes barriers to communication services for incarcerated persons and their loved ones, requiring the Department of Correction (DOC) and sheriffs to provide phone calls free of charge to those receiving and initiating phone calls and other services such as video or electronic communications. It also establishes a new requirement that commissary items in correctional facilities shall not be sold at more than three per cent over the purchase cost. Both changes ensure that correctional facilities do not unjustly profit off the basic needs of incarcerated persons. The budget also eliminates probation and parole fees, reducing the burden on individuals during their re-entry process. Currently, individuals pay $50 per month for administrative supervised probation fees, $65 per month for probation supervision fees, and $80 per month in parole fees.
To meet the needs of our Commonwealth’s post-pandemic recovery, the FY23 budget invests more than $100 million to bolster job training programs, help connect unemployed and under-employed people with higher paying jobs and support career services that help students gain skills to apply for future jobs. The budget includes $20 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase the skilled worker population’s access to career technical training opportunities, a $17 million transfer to the Workforce Competitiveness Trust fund, and $15 million for one-stop career centers to support economic recovery. The budget also includes a $1 million investment in Learn to Earn and $1 million for the 1199 SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund.
The budget also continues the Legislature’s focus on environmental and climate protection by investing $375.2 million for environmental services, which include funding increases for state parks, environmental protection, and fisheries and wildlife. Additional measures include promoting electric vehicles and funding for environmental justice and climate adaptation and preparedness.
The FY23 budget also establishes a veteran equality review board to ensure that veterans dishonorably discharged under ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ receive state-based veterans’ benefits.
Having been passed by the House and Senate, the legislation was forwarded to the Governor’s office where it was signed.