The legislature today approved its $34 billion budget for Fiscal 2014 (124-29 in the House and 36-3 in the Senate). Fiscal 2014 starts today, July 1.
Some items of note in the budget include:
- Increases in local aid — especially for communities that had been treated unfairly under the Chapter 70 School Aid formula, like Watertown. Improvements in the formula have been a particular focus of mine.
- Full funding of the special education circuit breaker, which reimburses school districts for extraordinary special education costs.
- Language making the MBTA and other subdivision pension systems subject to the public records law, ending years of stonewalling by the MBTA Retirement board (Section 4 of the budget document)
- Language blocking the expansion of the ethanol blending facility in Everett which would have led to long trains carrying ethanol traveling through densely populated areas. (Section 81 of the budget document)
- Language providing for a study of the practical issues involved in implementing carbon taxation (Section 207 of the budget document)
- Language protecting existing mental health jail diversion programs as in Watertown.
- Level funding of Kindergarten expansion grants, including last year’s language that would favor higher poverty communities.
- Language to create a new fund to support police training (Section 42 of the budget document), funded by increased surcharges on certain tickets for motor vehicle violations (Sections 75 and 78 of the budget document). According to the Senate Ways and Means Chair, it is expected that these surcharges will yield $2,000,000 per year.
- Additional funds for elder home care and for rental housing subsidies — a relatively good budget overall for the needy as compared to the tougher budgets of the past few years.
- Sufficient funds to prevent tuition and fee increases at public colleges for two years.
In a supplemental budget for FY2013, also approved today, (153-0 in the House and 39-0 in the Senate), the legislature included language requiring photo ID on EBT cards for welfare recipients. As part of agreement on this, the House committed to take up and debate the Senate’s more comprehensive welfare reform proposal in the fall. Most of the supplemental budget goes to pay outstanding bills from FY2013.
The budget depends for balance on tax increases included in the transportation package that sits on the Governor’s desk.