(BOSTON–7/31/23) Today, the Legislature enacted a $56.2 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24), reconciling differences between the versions of the budget passed by the House of Representatives and Senate and earlier this year. The FY24 conference committee report provides for historic levels of investment in education, housing, regional transportation, health care, workforce development, and more, as part of a broad strategy to grow our state’s economy and make Massachusetts more affordable, inclusive, and competitive.
“The $56.2 Billion Fiscal Year 2024 conference committee report is truly a reflection of the best and most critical initiatives that were contained in the various budget proposals that have been presented this year. Whether it is greater investments into programs like housing stability, food security, or early education the initiatives contained in this budget are a reflection of our shared values,” 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 more competitive and equitable for years to come. I want to thank Speaker Mariano for his leadership during this budget process, as well my fellow House conferees, Representative Ferrante and Representative Smola. I also want to thank my counterparts in the Senate, specifically my co-chair Senator Rodrigues, for their partnership in bringing this proposal over the finish line.”
“The final budget reflects our values by addressing the pressing needs of our communities, delivering substantial investments in key areas, including education, infrastructure, and health care, to ensure our economy remains competitive and equitable for years to come,” said Representative Rich Haggerty (D-Woburn).
The FY24 budget includes a total of $56.2 billion in spending, a $3.8 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) Budget. This spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $40.41 billion for FY24, representing 1.6 percent growth with an additional $1 billion from the new Fair Share surtax, as agreed upon during the consensus revenue process in January.
Remaining vigilant about the current fiscal environment, the FY24 budget adheres to sound fiscal discipline and builds up available reserves for the state’s stabilization fund. The fund has grown to a record high of $7.16 billion and is projected to close FY24 at $9.5 billion, ensuring the Commonwealth will continue to have healthy reserves to maintain fiscal responsibility during a time of ongoing economic volatility.
Fair Share Investments to Grow Our Economy
Consistent with the consensus revenue agreement reached with the Healey-Driscoll Administration in January, the FY24 budget includes $1 billion in revenues generated from the Fair Share ballot initiative voters approved in November 2022, which established a new surtax of four per cent on annual income above $1 million and invests these new public dollars to improve the state’s education and transportation sectors. To safeguard this new source of revenue, the FY24 budget establishes an Education and Transportation Fund to account for Fair Share revenues in an open and transparent manner, ensuring the public is informed about how this new revenue is collected and used to improve public education and transportation systems in accordance with the ballot initiative.
Notable Fair Share education and transportation investment highlights:
• $171.5 million to require public schools to provide universal school meals to all students free of charge, making Massachusetts the seventh state in the country to make the program permanent, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). According to the Feed Kids Campaign, 56,000 additional children ate school lunch daily in October 2022 compared to October 2019 as a result of this program.
• $100 million for Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) capital supports for cities, towns and school districts experiencing extraordinary school project costs impacted by post-COVID inflationary pressures.
o In addition to the $100 million, the budget increases the statutory limit on the estimated amount of grants approved by the MSBA to $1,200,000,000.
o This increase in the statutory spending cap, coupled with an infusion of state funding, will allow schools who signed MSBA project contracts before COVID—as well as those who are working towards signing a contract—to catch up to construction costs impacted by inflation
• $50 million to accelerate and build capacity to support free community college across all campuses by fall of 2024, including:
o $20 million for MassReconnect as a first step toward free community college in the Commonwealth for those aged 25 and older.
o $18 million for a free community college pilot program for nursing students to support a an in-demand workforce area and build toward universal free community college in the fall of 2024.
o $12 million for free community college implementation supports to collect necessary data, develop best practices, and build capacity for free community college in the fall of 2024.
• $25 million to encourage degree completion in disciplines that will 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.
• $50 million to create 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 (DESE) and preference will be given to schools serving low-income and environmental justice populations.
• $181 million for MBTA capital projects.
• $100 million in supplemental aid for roads and bridges, half of which will be expended consistent with the Chapter 90 program, with the other half to be spent with a focus on the total mileage of participating municipalities.
• $90 million for regional transit funding and grants to be used exclusively to support the work of Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs), more than doubling the total funding for RTAs to $184 million.
• $20 million 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.
• $5.7 million for water transportation, which will cover one-time expenses for a pilot program covering operational assistance for ferry services.
• $5 million for MBTA means-Tested Fares, which will cover initial exploration of the feasibility of implementing a means-tested fare program at the MBTA.
Education: Early Education and Care, K-12 and Higher Education
The FY24 budget supports students across the full spectrum of the Commonwealth’s education system, from Massachusetts’ youngest learners to adults re-entering higher education. The budget report delivers historic levels of investment in education, including:
• $6.59 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $604 million over FY 2023, as well as doubling minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil.
• $1.5 billion investment in early education and care—the largest-ever annual appropriation for early education and care in Massachusetts history.
• $714 million for childcare for children involved with the Department of Children and Families (DCF), Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), and for low-income families.
• $475 million for the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) grants; FY24 is the first fiscal year in which the annual state budget includes a full year of funding for C3 grants, signaling a historic commitment to maintain this crucial lifeline for our early education and care sector.
• $85 million in rate increases for subsidized childcare providers across the Commonwealth.
• $504.5 million for the special education (SPED) circuit breaker.
• $97.1 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs, representing a 90 per cent reimbursement rate.
• $20 million for childcare resource and referral agencies.
• $17.5 million for Head Start grants.
• $15 million for rural school aid assistance.
• $5 million for early childhood mental health grants.
For K-12 education, the FY24 budget meets the Legislature’s commitment to the Student Opportunity Act (SOA), investing $6.59 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $604 million over FY 2023, as well as doubling minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $60 per pupil. Finally, complementing our ongoing efforts to implement the Student Opportunity Act by FY2027 and ensures that all school districts are equipped with the resources to deliver high quality educational opportunities to their students, the budget requires schools to provide universal school meals to all students free of charge, making this pandemic era program permanent. The budget also includes two studies to examine school meal waste avoidance and nutrition standards under the program.
In addition to early education and public K-12 education, the FY24 budget report expands pathways to affordable public higher education for all by building capacity for free community college for all students in fall of 2024. Laying the groundwork for this momentous change, the budget report provides $50 million to accelerate and build capacity to support free community college across all campuses by fall of 2024, including $38 million for free community college programs starting in the fall of 2023 for students aged 25 or older, as well as for students pursuing degrees in nursing to address a critical workforce need.
To further increase the pipeline of qualified nurses, the FY24 budget also directs the Board of Registration in Nursing to develop an alternative approval process to allow nursing faculty to teach the clinical or skills lab component of a nursing course with a baccalaureate degree and any additional experience required by the Board.
Finally, the FY24 budget also provides access to in-state tuition for students without a documented immigration status. All students who have attended a Massachusetts high school for at least three years and graduated or obtained a GED in the state will qualify for in-state tuition rates at Massachusetts public colleges or universities, regardless of immigration status. Tuition equity will help accomplish the Commonwealth’s goals of growing the middle class, building the state’s workforce, and supporting the economy.
Health, Mental Health and Family Care
Investments in the FY24 budget allow more than 2 million people to receive affordable, accessible, and comprehensive health care services. Health care investments include:
• $19.81 billion for MassHealth, representing the largest investment made in the state budget.
• $2.9 billion for services and focused supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
• $597.7 million for Department of Mental Health (DMH) adult support services.
• $582 million for nursing facility Medicaid rates, including $112 million in additional base rate payments to maintain competitive wages in the Commonwealth’s nursing facility workforce.
• $213.3 million for a complete range of substance use disorder treatment and intervention services.
• $119.8 million for children’s mental health services.
• $42.9 million for Early Intervention (EI) services, ensuring supports remain accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities.
• $33.8 million for Family Resource Centers (FRCs) to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families.
• $26.3 million for grants to local Councils on Aging to increase assistance per elder to $14 from $12 in FY 2023.
• $25 million for emergency department diversion initiatives for children, adolescents, and adults.
• $20 million to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives.
• $6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools bolster social emotional learning supports for students, including $1 million to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students.
• $5 million for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused.
• $2 million for grants for improvements in reproductive health access, infrastructure, and safety.
• $1 million for the development, expansion and operation of freestanding birth centers and support for community-based maternal health services.
• $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 courts.
The FY24 budget codifies into law the federal Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) provisions that protect access to preventive services, such as certain cancer screenings and HIV preventive medications, such as PrEP, that have been jeopardized by a recent federal court ruling in Texas. By enshrining the ACA protections into state law, insurance carriers across the Commonwealth will be required to provide coverage for preventive services without imposing cost-sharing such as co-pays and deductibles.
Additionally, as the MassHealth redetermination process that started in April 2023 continues, the FY24 budget creates a two-year ConnectorCare expansion pilot program to expand eligibility to 500 per cent of the Federal Poverty Limit (FPL), which is about $73,000 a year for an individual. This will result in 47,000 to 70,000 residents becoming newly eligible for more affordable coverage, while helping to ease the transition off MassHealth by providing more affordable options for people who would otherwise not be eligible for subsidized coverage.
Acknowledging that stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and death in the United States and Massachusetts, the FY24 budget directs the Department of Public Health (DPH) to establish a comprehensive system of stroke response and care to ensure patients receive appropriate urgent care quickly. In addition, the budget includes provisions codifying Operation House Call, which directs DPH to establish standards on best practices for the treatment and care for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities for a certified training program for students pursuing a health care profession.
Finally, the FY24 budget also requires a state employer to offer a new state employee Group Insurance Commission health insurance coverage effective as of the employee’s start date if the employee starts work at the beginning of the month or no later than the first day of the first full month of their employment.
With these important provisions, the FY24 budget helps to improve and expand continued access to programs and services for millions of our residents, while further protecting the rights of residents to make their own health care choices.
The FY24 budget makes a historic $1.05 billion investment in housing, dedicating resources to programs that support housing stability, residential assistance, and assistance to those experiencing homelessness.
The budget prioritizes relief for families and individuals who continue to face challenges brought on by the pandemic and financial insecurity, including $324 million for Emergency Assistance family shelters and $190 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), which provides rental assistance up to $7,000 per household.
Other housing investments include:
• $180 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), creating more than 750 new vouchers and allowing the program to move to a payment standard with a benefit of 110 per cent of the federal small-area fair market rental price, significantly broadening housing options for those served by the program.
• $110.8 million for assistance for individuals experiencing homelessness.
• $107 million for assistance to local housing authorities.
• $37 million for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs, bolstering assistance under this program to two years with a per household maximum benefit of $30,000.
• $26 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), including $9.1 million in funds carried forward from FY 2023. This funding increase will create 250 new vouchers and will pair with $2.5 million in grants to improve or create accessible housing units. Both programs will also benefit from the inclusion of project-based vouchers in AHVP, which will stimulate the building of new deeply affordable and accessible homes.
• $8.9 million for sponsor-based supportive permanent housing.
• $8.89 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including $250,000 for homeless LGBTQ youth
In addition to these substantial investments, the FY24 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 Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC), 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.
Expanding and Protecting Economic Opportunities
The budget includes a record investment in the annual child’s clothing allowance, providing $450 per child for eligible families to buy clothes for the upcoming school year. The budget also includes a 10 per cent 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 2023.
Economic opportunity investments include:
• $444.7 million for Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and $204.4 million for Emergency Aid to Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) to continue efforts to lift families out of ‘deep poverty’—defined as is income below half the federal poverty level—and to provide the necessary support as caseloads increase.
• $60 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce.
• $36 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program.
• $20 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund to connect unemployed and under-employed workers with higher paying jobs.
• $21 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to maintain access to healthy food options for households in need.
• $15 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program to provide economic support to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system.
• $15.4 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase our skilled worker population and provide residents access to career technical training opportunities.
• $5.9 million for the Innovation Pathways program to continue to connect students to training and post-secondary opportunities in STEM fields.
Community Support and Local Aid
The FY24 budget—in addition to funding traditional accounts like Chapter 70 education aid—demonstrates the Legislature’s ongoing commitment to state-local partnerships, dedicating meaningful resources that meet the needs of communities across the Commonwealth. This includes $1.27 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $39.4 million over FY 2023, to support additional resources for cities and towns.
In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the budget includes the following local and regional investments:
• $184 million, including $90 million from Fair Share funds, for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) which help to connect all regions of the Commonwealth.
• $51.5 million for payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land, an increase of $6.5 million over FY 2023, ensuring a vital source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during pandemic recovery.
• $47.3 million for libraries, including $16.9 million for regional library local aid, $17.6 million for municipal libraries and $6.2 million for technology and automated resource networks.
No Cost Calls
The FY24 budget removes barriers to communication services for persons who are incarcerated and their loved ones. Under this provision, 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.
Having passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, the FY24 budget now moves to the Governor’s desk for her consideration.