BOSTON – On Friday, July 9, 2021, Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Representative Rich Haggerty (D-Woburn), and Representative Michelle Ciccolo (D-Lexington) joined their colleagues in the Massachusetts State Legislature in unanimously passing a $48.07 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22). This budget maintains fiscal responsibility while maintaining services, makes targeted investments to address emerging needs, safeguards the health and wellness of the most vulnerable populations in the Commonwealth, and ensures residents will benefit equitably as the state recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taking into consideration strong tax revenue performance in Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21), the final FY22 budget increases revenue assumptions by $4.2 billion over the December consensus revenue projection; the new tax revenue projection is now $34.35 billion. As a result, the FY22 budget does not make a withdrawal but instead transfers funds into the Stabilization Fund, leading to a projected balance of approximately $5.8 billion for this crucial ‘rainy day’ fund at the end of the fiscal year.
“We could not have predicted the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic but over the past 16 months we have done our best to prepare for the future, and I’m proud the FY22 budget continues that work by making robust short- and long-term investments in mental and behavioral health services, education, local health departments, and so much more,” said Senator Friedman, Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means and member of the FY22 Budget Conference Committee. “I sincerely thank Senate President Spilka, Ways and Means Chair Rodrigues, and the rest of my colleagues in the Legislature for their work supporting all residents of the Commonwealth, especially those most in need.”
“These community directed funds for our police department and our veterans’ group will support their mission of both protecting our community and honoring our veterans. This budgets also helps to address food insecurity and further supports English language learners which are critical resources for those in our community who need our help the most,” said Representative Haggerty. “This budget reflects our values by investing in local aid, public health, our educational systems, and workforce training – each of which will play a critical role in getting us past this pandemic and back to full employment. It also includes a planned $1.1 Billion deposit into the Commonwealth’s reserve ‘Rainy Day’ fund bringing its total to a record $6.0 billion which strengthens our state’s fiscal position, prepares us well to deal future challenges, and puts our state in a strong place to protect our bond rating.”
“As we emerge from one of the most challenging periods in our recent history in the Commonwealth, I am optimistic that we will continue to learn and grow from the adversity thrown at us by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Representative Ciccolo. “The FY22 budget continues this work of ensuring Massachusetts is strong by providing for our schools and universities, improving our technological infrastructure, providing for our most vulnerable residents, and ensuring cities and towns have the funds they need to address the challenges facing them.”
The Woburn delegation was particularly proud of the many local priorities they helped secure, including:
• $100,000 for English at Large, Inc. in Woburn for the purposes of English language tutoring and small group instruction
• $100,000 for Food Link, Inc. to address food insecurity in Woburn and surrounding communities
• $75,000 for the Woburn Police Department to modernize emergency equipment
• $15,000 to support Friends of Woburn Veterans continued work in the community
Notably, the FY22 budget provides substantial funds to invest in the Commonwealth’s long-term obligations. As a cornerstone of the Commonwealth’s equitable recovery, the FY22 budget protects access to educational opportunity and charts a path forward for students, families, educators, and institutions. Education budget allocations for Woburn are as follows:
• Chapter 70 – : $9,687,377
• Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) – $6,579,791
Prioritizing funding for education, the new Student Opportunity Act Investment fund was funded at $350 million to be utilized in the coming years for the implementation of the state’s landmark Student Opportunity Act (SOA)—maintaining the Legislature’s commitment to implementing the SOA by FY27. The budget proposal fully funds the first year of the SOA consistent with the $5.503 billion local aid agreement reached in March, amounting to an increase of $220 million over FY21.
Other education investments include:
• $388.4 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, reimbursing school districts for the high cost of educating students with disabilities at the statutorily required 75% reimbursement rate
• $154.6 million for reimbursing school districts at 75% for costs incurred when students leave to attend charter schools
• $82.2 million for regional school transportation
• $50 million for Adult Basic Education
• $27.9 million for the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) program
• $6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, including $1 million for a new pilot program to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students
• $4 million for Rural School Aid
This budget supports working families by addressing the increasing costs of caregiving for low-income families by converting the existing tax deductions for young children, elderly or disabled dependents and business-related dependent care expenses into refundable tax credits. The conversion to a refundable tax credit would provide an additional $16 million to over 85,000 families each year. Coupled with the expanded Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care tax credits under the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), these credits will help lift families out of poverty and support low-income working parents and caregivers across the Commonwealth.
Other children and family investments include:
• $30.5 million for Emergency Food Assistance to ensure that citizens in need can navigate the historic levels of food insecurity caused by COVID-19
• $4.2 million for the Office of the Child Advocate, including $1 million for the establishment and operation of a state center on child wellness and trauma
• $2.5 million for Children Advocacy Centers
The FY22 budget provides resources to help with housing stability, including $150 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program to expand access to affordable housing, $85 million for grants to local housing authorities, $22 million for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program and $8 million for Housing Consumer Education Centers to help administer nearly $1 billion in federal housing relief.
The Legislature’s FY22 budget confronts the frontline health care impacts of the pandemic to navigate the challenges posed by COVID-19. It also sustains support for the state’s safety net by funding MassHealth at a total of $18.98 billion, thereby providing over 2 million of the Commonwealth’s children, seniors, and low-income residents access to comprehensive health care coverage. It also invests $15 million to support local and regional boards of health as they continue to work on the front lines against the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other health care and public health investments include:
• $175.6 million for substance use disorder and intervention services provided by the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services
• $98.4 million for children’s mental health services, including $3.9 million for the Massachusetts Child Psychiatric Access Program (MCPAP) and MCPAP for Moms to address mental health needs of pregnant and postpartum women
• $25 million for Family Resource Centers (FRCs) to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families
• $56.1 million for domestic violence prevention services
• $40.8 million for early intervention services, to ensure supports are accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities, including funds to support health equity initiatives
To support economic development, the FY22 budget increases access to high quality and reliable broadband—which is crucial for businesses, students, and families—by moving the duties of the Wireless and Broadband Development Division to the Department of Telecommunications, which is working to facilitate access to broadband, and has the institutional ability and knowledge to address broadband access issues.
Investments in economic and workforce development include:
• $17 million transfer to the Workforce Competitiveness Trust fund
• $15.4 million for Career Technical Institutes
• $15 million for the Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program
• $9.5 million for one-stop career centers to support economic recovery
• $6 million for Regional Economic Development Organizations to support economic growth in all regions of the state
Having been passed by the House and Senate, the legislation now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.