(BOSTON) Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) joined her colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives last week to pass the state budget for Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22), which invests in programs and services across the Commonwealth. This budget responsibly attends to the needs of residents and makes investments that set the state on a path toward economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic. Funded at $47.716 billion, the House’s FY22 budget continues its strong commitment to cities and towns, and includes significant investments in education, supportive services for vulnerable populations, and workforce and economic development, among other priorities.

“This budget reflects yet another year of meaningful investments to support residents of the Commonwealth,” said Representative Meschino. “I am dedicated to advocating for the line items that matter most to our communities and the people who live here.”

Representative Meschino was able to secure funding for several key priorities for the 3rd Plymouth District, including full funding for state aid for public libraries and increased funding for the Division of Ecological Restoration. She also advocated for reliable, increased funding as compared to FY21 for local aid.

The House FY22 budget does not cut services nor does it raise taxes, and is made possible due to strong revenue collections, increased federal reimbursement, and by leveraging funds from the state’s Stabilization Fund. The budget does not appropriate anticipated American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds. As the House Ways & Means and Federal Stimulus committees await the issuance of spending parameters by the federal government, the committees have begun a process to better understand the needs of Massachusetts communities and to analyze past expenditures of federal funds, particularly those received from the CARES Act.

The FY22 House budget reflects the local aid commitment recently made by the House and Senate. It increases Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) by $39.5 million over FY21 for a total of $1.168 billion and Chapter 70 education funding by $219.6 million over FY21 for a total of $5.503 billion, fully funding the first year of a six-year implementation plan of the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). Enacted in 2019 to support equitable funding for our most vulnerable students, the Legislature’s funding schedule ensures the SOA remains on track to be fully implemented over the course of seven years as originally intended.

The House’s FY22 budget also creates a $40 million enrollment reserve fund to help school districts whose fall enrollment is negatively impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help students with the consequences of prolonged remote learning and address the full educational and social-emotional needs of students, the budget provides $15 million for summer education and supportive services.

Additional education funding allocations important to the 3rd Plymouth District include:

  • $367 million for Special Education Circuit Breaker;
  • $154 million for Charter School Aid;
  • $82 million for Regional Transportation; and
  • $14 million for Homeless Student Transportation.

Continuing the House’s commitment to high-quality early education and care (EEC), the FY22 budget includes a $20 million investment in rate increases for child care providers across Massachusetts.

Other early education and care funding initiatives include:

  • $15 million for Head Start grants;
  • $12 million for child care resource and referral agencies;
  • $5 million for EEC higher education provider opportunities; and
  • $2.5 million for early childhood mental health grants.

Building on a House priority to ensure Massachusetts residents from diverse backgrounds have access to meaningful educational opportunities, the House budget invests in higher education allocating $571 million for the University of Massachusetts system, $315 million for community colleges, and $291 million for state universities. The budget also includes a $10 million increase in scholarship funding over last fiscal year for a new total of $130 million, and funds the community colleges SUCCESS Fund at $10.5 million and the STEM Starter Academy at $4.75 million.

The budget also includes large investments in labor and economic development, such as the creation of a trust fund dedicated to job training for the offshore wind industry to be administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. This budget makes an initial deposit into this fund of $10 million to establish and grow technical training programs in our public higher education system and vocational-technical institutions. The fund will also prioritize grants and scholarships to adult learning providers, labor organizations, and public educational institutions to provide workers with greater access to these trainings.

Additional investments include:

  • $50 million for adult education;
  • $24 million for Youthworks Summer Jobs;
  • $5 million for Small Business Technical Assistance;
  • $5 million for Community Action Agency Operating and Outreach Support;
  • $5 million investment in Local Tourism Recovery Marketing;
  • $2.5 million for Urban Agenda Grants; and
  • $2 million investment in Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

The Commonwealth’s commitment to MassHealth remains one of the largest drivers of the budget. In FY22 the House provided $18.969 billion to fully fund its caseload, which has increased as more residents became eligible during the pandemic. The House’s FY22 budget accurately reflects this enrollment growth, 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.

Many of the House FY22 budget’s most significant increases represent essential services and programs that serve Massachusetts’ most vulnerable residents, including $771.1 million for the Department of Transitional Assistance to maintain support to families, at-risk parents, victims of intergenerational trauma, seniors, and persons with disabilities. Other notable health and human services investments include $30 million for Emergency Food Assistance, $13 million for Healthy Incentives Program, and $500,000 for a public awareness campaign on the contraceptive ACCESS Law.

The House’s FY22 budget also includes funding for housing and homelessness prevention, investing $22 million in direct appropriations for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Program to promote housing stability and combat the threat of evictions. The budget also includes $148 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) and $84 million for public housing subsidies.

Additional investments for individuals and youth include:

  • $56.4 million for Homeless Individuals Shelters;
  • $12.5 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP);
  • $12 million for Rental Subsidies for eligible DMH Clients; and
  • $8 million for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth.

The budget funds the Department of Developmental Services at $2.29 billion, aimed to support individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. It includes $219.9 million for Day and Work programs; $84.9 million for Respite Family Supports; a $55.4 million increase for DDS’ Turning 22 class; a $7 million investment in transportation services; and $23.4 million for head injury treatment services.

Reflecting the Legislature’s strong commitment to providing access to care and treatment for individuals with a substance use disorder, the budget allocates $160 million for the Bureau of Substance Addiction Services, including support for the MA-Access to Recovery program and targeted investments in five additional recovery centers. The budget also provides funding for low-threshold housing for people experiencing homelessness, mental health disorders and at risk for HIV; outpatient and mobile services for persons with disabilities; and treatment at correctional facilities.

In an effort to ensure every resident has equal access to the criminal justice system, the House’s FY22 budget includes a $775 million investment in the Trial Court; $35 million for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation; and increases for Prisoners’ Legal Services and Mental Health Legal Advisors. The budget also renews commitments made by the state’s criminal justice reform, such as $11.1 million for community-based re-entry programs, and $4 million in pre- and post-release services.

The budget also continues the House’s focus on environmental and climate protection by including $312.6 million in funding for environmental services, which includes increases for state parks, environmental protection, and the endangered species programs. Additional investments include millions for hazardous waste site cleanups, river ways protection and access, and Clean Water Trust contract assistance.

The House budget makes the MEFA college savings tax deduction permanent, creates a commission to develop recommendations and best practices for responses to mental health emergencies, and creates a new program to approve rural growth funds that would invest in small businesses in rural communities. It also eliminates the sunset on the Film Tax Credit and increases the Conservation Land Tax Credit.

Speaker Mariano and the House Ways & Means Committee introduced their FY22 budget on April 14, 2021, following a review of the Governor’s proposal and a series of budget hearings. After three days of debate and over a thousand proposed amendments, the budget passed by the House of Representatives 160-0 and now goes to the Senate.