The FY13 Budget Conference Report was released last night. The House and Senate will both take action on the report today — no amendments will be permitted.
Here are a few initial observations on items that we have heard from many people about.
As expected, the final budget resolves most local aid differences in the upwards direction. It includes:
- The Senate Chapter 70 education aid numbers, slightly higher than the House for some of my communities
- $3.5 million for the Chapter 70 “pothole” account, including language designed to benefit communities like Watertown that have low Chapter 70 numbers — this item was present in the Senate budget, but not the House budget.
- The House general local aid (UGGA) numbers, slightly lower than the Senate for some of my communities.
- $242 million, an amount just below the Senate number for the special education circuit breaker, essentially full 75% reimbursement for communities. This is a big difference from the House number which was $222 million and important to all of my communities.
- $24 million for Kindergarten Expansion grants — a compromise closer to the higher House number ($25m) than to the Senate ($21m). This line item does include the House language establishing a grant preference for “school districts which serve free or reduced lunch to at least 35 per cent of its students” — language which Watertown believes might disadvantage its application for funds under this section.
- $18.1 million for the METCO program — the slightly higher House number.
- $25 million for the Community Preservation Act Trust Fund from end-of-year surplus — the more generous House approach; the Senate budget included only $5 million (although it was a straight appropriation).
The final version does include $20,000,000 for the reserve to adjust salaries of low income human services workers that was added by the Senate.
The final version includes a modest loosening of the ban on gifts to doctors by pharmaceutical and medical device companies. It will permit “payment for modest meals and refreshments in connection with non-CME educational presentations” — this is a compromise with local restaurants who sought an elimination on the ban of wining and dining of doctors. Companies will be required to provide quarterly reports on non-CME presentations. (CME is continuing medical education.)
Based on a manual scan (the available version of the text is not searchable) the final version does not appear to include the amendment changing eligibility standards for cooperative apartments.
We will supplement this report with additional observations on issues that have been of concern to my constituents.