State Budget Agreement Reached

Yesterday, the House and Senate finalized the Fiscal 2024 Budget. I’m including some highlights of the items that were important advocacy priorities for me. I’m also sharing the Senate President’s Press Release on the agreement for a broader overview. Overall, I am very pleased with this year’s budget and I feel that it reflects many of my stated priorities.


Local school and road funding

Statewide, the budget includes continued increases in school aid pursuant to the “Student Opportunity Act”. All my communities will benefit from that increased assistance.

Additionally, the budget fully funds the special education circuit-breaker. Full funding of the circuit-breaker is very important to all of my communities.

For roads, an additional $100,000,000 was added to Chapter 90 highway funding; this should result in a 50% increase in each community’s state road support.

Both Belmont and Watertown have faced special financial pressures on their schools this year. For Watertown, the budget includes (a) authorizing language and funds that will yield $5.6 million to cover cost escalation in the high school construction project; (b) language that is expected to result in $250,000 in special education cost relief based on Watertown’s uniquely high rate of out-of-district placements. For Belmont, the budget includes a $400,000 special appropriation intended to help plug the town’s budget gap to which the state contributed by increasing the rates for out of district placement. This appropriation exceeds the impact of the increased rates.

The legislature is still considering a state-wide relief package to offset the increased out-of-district special education rates. The extent and terms of that relief are still in flux and will likely be resolved in the fall. This may provide additional support to all my communities.

MBTA funding

The final budget agreement includes a total of $392.8 million in funding for the MBTA.   

Of this amount, $187 million is a continuation of a long standing annual “contractual support” payment. 

The amount also includes three items which are components of the new funds allocated to transportation under the terms of the recent ballot initiative raising funds for transportation and education.

  • First, $180.8 million will go to support MBTA infrastructure investments: $20M for commuter rail, $50M for bridges, $70M for accessibility upgrades, $30M for subway track & signal upgrades, $10.8M for red blue connector design. 
  • Second, $5 million will go for study of means tested fare feasibility.
  • Third, $20 million will go to support hiring and retention.

These funds are a material contribution to the MBTA’s resources.  The MBTA has budgeted expenses of $2.7 billion in Fiscal 2024. However, none these appropriations will alter the MBTA’s immediate investment plans or current service levels. They are examples of the legislature’s commitments to funding the MBTA and to complying with the terms of the ballot question. 

It is certain that we will need to appropriate additional support over the years to come, and I will continue to support all funding requests that the MBTA makes.  Getting the T back on track is a top priority.

Park funding

Supporting and improving our parks has been a central advocacy priority for me. This year, we were able to increase DCR‘s main operating account from $85.0 million in FY2023 to $105.6m in FY2024. Including all accounts, state funding for DCR increased from $134.0 million to $157.3 million. Additionally, we increased the cap on DCR positions to 1300, assuring that the funds could be used to hire permanent employees.

Prison phone calls free

Outside sections of the budget include language making prison phone calls free and also prohibiting unreasonable markups of commissary items (snacks, toiletries, etc., sold to prisoners).  The language covers calls from state prisons, county houses of corrections, and jails.

I filed the free phone calls bill in 2019 and I’m very glad to see it come to fruition in this vehicle.  For me, this represents one more step in towards assuring that our criminal justice system is never  about squeezing money from the poorest people in Massachusetts.   We have previously eliminated fees on probationers, fees on parolees, and reduced the number of cases in which people lose their drivers licenses and/or have to pay registry fees related to criminal court proceedings.

Re-entry support

The budget includes language which I have sponsored over the past few years expanding funding and eligibility for prison re-entry services through the Office of Community Corrections.

In state tuition for immigrants

After 20 years of advocacy, immigrants who go to high school in Massachusetts will finally be eligible for in-state tuition in Massachusetts state schools regardless of their immigration status. This fight goes back to the era of Governor Mitt Romney who opposed the proposal. It will mean more young people going to school in Massachusetts and some advocates have viewed it as revenue positive for the state university system.

Universal free school meals

Non-public schools were included in the continuation of the universal school meals program that was finally made a regular annual budget item in the FY24 budget.

Other major budget initiatives

The budget includes several other major initiatives that are important to me and were broadly supported:

  • Lowering costs for community college attendance — supporting nursing and other high demand fields and moving towards free community college.
  • Increasing support for early education and care
  • Increasing support for low-income tenants
  • Increasing support for mental health and family care

Official Press Release from the Office of the Senate President

Legislature Passes Fiscal Year 2024 Budget

$56.2B budget agreement provides for historic levels of investment in
education, housing, regional transportation, and health care

(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.

“This budget represents a major step forward for our Commonwealth, particularly in making higher education more affordable and more accessible to everyone,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “Tuition equity, free community college for nursing students and students 25 and older, and laying the groundwork for free universal community college starting next fall—all part of the Senate’s Student Opportunity Plan—are crucial to securing our long-term competitiveness, providing residents with concrete ways to create the futures they dream of, and continuing our state’s commitment to education at every level. Included in that commitment is a historic $1.5 billion in early education and care, as well as making universal free school meals permanent and school construction funds more accessible. As we seek to improve access to quality health care, our investment in nurses—combined with a policy provision to allow more professional nurses to train the next generation—will help ease the burden on our workforce, while we update protocols for stroke and protect preventive health services that are currently covered by the Affordable Care Act. These are just a few of the many important provisions included in the final Fiscal Year 2024 budget, all designed to keep Massachusetts moving forward as we continue to go back to better after COVID. I am so very grateful to all of my Senate colleagues, with whom so many of the great initiatives included in the final budget initiated, as well as to Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues, Vice Chair Cindy Friedman, and Assistant Vice Chair Jo Comerford, Senate Ways and Means staff, Speaker Mariano, the conferees and everyone who worked so hard to get this impressive budget over the finish line.”

“From critical investments in health care and workforce development, to funding for new initiatives that are designed to increase educational opportunities, better support working families, and provide for a safer and more reliable public transportation system, this FY24 budget will help to make Massachusetts more affordable, while ensuring that the Commonwealth’s most consequential institutions work better for Massachusetts residents,” said House Speaker Ronald J. Mariano (D-Quincy). “I want to thank Chairman Michlewitz for his indispensable fiscal leadership, as well as the entire House Committee on Ways and Means, each member of the conference committee, and Senate President Spilka and our partners in the Senate for working diligently to put the best possible package together.” 

“The Fiscal Year 2024 conference committee report agreement is a forward-thinking budget plan that invests to grow our economy, prioritizes our long-term economic health, expands access to opportunities, and empowers our communities as we build an inclusive post-pandemic future that equitably benefits all and moves our Commonwealth forward,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Focused on an overarching goal to meet the pressing needs of our communities, the FY24 conference committee report delivers substantial investments in keys areas, including education, transportation, health care, housing, workforce development, and greatly strengthens our state’s safety net. Thank you to all my colleagues in the Senate, whose advocacy, collaboration, and dedication helped to inform and shape this comprehensive budget plan, especially our conferees, Senator Friedman and Senator O’Connor. Thank you to our House conferees, especially House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz for his steadfast determination to get the job done and deliver a budget. A special heartfelt thank you to the Ways and Means staff, whose diligent work over the last several months was largely responsible for producing this budget, their tireless efforts did not go unnoticed! Lastly, a warm and sincere thank you to Senate President Spilka for her resolute and compassionate leadership as we work together to grow our economy and prioritize our state’s long-term economic health.”

“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.”

“After thoughtful and deliberate conversation, the Fiscal Year 2024 conference committee report released today supports both the Commonwealth’s immediate needs and long-term economic health,” said Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Recognizing education and health as the cornerstone of our economic prosperity, this budget makes substantial investments in those areas by increasing local school district funding, expanding access to community college, and safeguarding life-saving preventive health services. I want to thank Senate President Spilka, Chair Rodrigues, Assistant Vice Chair Comerford, and all my Senate colleagues for work on this effort.”

“In a time when COVID-19 has fundamentally changed our economy, coupled with ever-accelerating technological advances, it is clear that we, here in the Commonwealth, need to realign workers’ skills with new jobs that are being created daily. This budget does that by investing in the student from early education through community college and workforce development,” said Representative Ann-Margaret Ferrante (D-Gloucester), Vice Chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget builds on success of past budgets. By doing so, Massachusetts has been able to feed continued economic growth while providing fair and equitable opportunities to its residents.”

“The FY24 budget conference committee report is the result of careful considerations that reflect the priorities of each member of the legislature,” said Senator Patrick O’Connor (R-Weymouth), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This budget will make practical and targeted investments into our essential services and position the Commonwealth for continued growth. Through fiscally responsible budgeting we are able to deliver a final bill that will meet the needs of our constituents and strengthen our economy. I appreciate the work of my fellow conferees and for the leadership of the Chairs of Ways and Means for providing a collaborative conference committee process.”

“Massachusetts continues to move in a positive direction by making significant investments in this budget,” said Representative Smola (R-Warren), Ranking Member of the Committee on Ways and Means. “We prioritize local funding by increasing general government aid to municipalities and double the minimum aid contribution per pupil for education. The budget sets aside money for tax relief in the current year and provides support for critical initiatives like universal school meals and expands health care coverage eligibility through ConnectorCare. The conference committee worked closely to develop a proposal that meets the needs of the people and our communities.”

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.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • $20 million for MassReconnect as a first step toward free community college in the Commonwealth for those aged 25 and older.
  • $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.
  • $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 theBoard 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 forsponsor-based supportive permanent housing.
  • $8.89 million forthe Home and Healthy for Goodre-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.  


Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

38 replies on “State Budget Agreement Reached”

  1. Lots of good things, but $5 million for a T fare study seems a bit much.

    I’ll do it for $3 million-


  2. Will, thank you for sharing the budget with us. My question is was there anything passed for Estate Taxes or anything relating to reducing taxes.


    1. Harvey, in my opinion, Will does not believe in lowering taxes, as a general principle.

    2. Thank you for asking. Many people have this question.

      I fully support raising the exemption on the estate tax from $1 million to $2 million and also eliminating the cliff effect that we currently have. Currently, if you have just $1 over the exemption, you completely lose the exemption. Massachusetts is an outlier with the low exemption and the cliff effect.

      The House and Senate have both voted for these basic changes more than once. There is a pending tax package bill that is separate from the budget and includes the estate tax relief. There is some disagreement about some wrinkles of the estate tax and also about other elements of the tax package.

      There is agreement, however, about the first year amount of the tax package — $580 million. The budget agreement adopted yesterday leaves room to cover the costs of the tax package.

      I am hopeful that the differences will be resolved in the Fall and we will get this done before Thanksgiving.

  3. Bravo! Great work bringing these changes about. The prognosis for incarcerated individuals upon release is best for those who can keep connections with family and friends. Finally the expense of collect phone calls is gone, a real hardship for some families.
    I am very happy to see that our hard working immigrant students can receive in-state tuition. (Many work long hours after school.)

  4. Will, how much is included in the state budget for getting permanent housing (not hotel rooms) for immigrants who have first come over the border illegally (and continue to come and be sent to Massachusetts)?
    Will these immigrants take priority over seniors and long-time US citizens, for publicly funded housing?
    Where in Watertown and Belmont do you propose constructing apartment buildings for these one-time illegal immigrants?
    Belmont Hill? Lots of open space up there, and it’s a nice area where all social classes can mingle.
    Off Mt. Auburn Street, north up the hill toward Oakley Country Club? Maybe ON Oakley Country Club — take away a few holes.
    More schools will need to be built for immigrant children too.

  5. It is interesting how the comments so far seem to be only from the political right. Nothing about helping people, just self interest. On the subject of taxes, Massachusetts should move to a progressive tax system. The millionaire tax passed by the citizens last year was a step in the right direction. In a state with so much wealth at the top, we should not have people living on the street, incarceration substituting for mental healthcare, and seniors not being able to live out there lives with dignity.

    1. Progressive tax system? On top of all the freebies listed above? I guess equity principles and wealth envy will continue to doom this State forever. Keep going until you run out of other people’s money. And start subsidizing classes for Spanish as a second language for all residents; they are going to need it.

        1. You know little, if anything.

          Usted sabe muy poco, si cualquier cosa. Start practicing, amigo.

    2. “Nothing about helping people” because taxpayers, working families and seniors who actually fund all these Christmas presents aren’t people? Only the completly unvetted 7 million illegal immigrants who walked across the border in the past three years (double the number of welcome legal immigrants, who they cut in front of) from Pakistan, Nepal, the Middle East and everywhere the traffickers sell tickets are people. That’s why we provide them with free busing to any city and free housing, screw the homeless vets. It’s funny how Black Lives Matter so much until blacks justifiably start protesting the relocation of illegals in their own neighborhoods. It’s remarkable how people perpetrating the most immoral, vicious and devastating humanitarian crises can’t stop kissing their own hands and admiring their virtue on the mirror.

    3. Geoff, you may not know this, but a graduated income tax question was on the state ballot several times and was defeated every time.

      People like our flat tax system. Fair, simple, applies to everyone, and not prone to manipulation by people like Will.
      What Will did with his Millionaire’s Tax was to make an end run around this by appealing to people’s sense that those who earn more are somehow selfish, greedy capitalists who need to be punished.
      It’s class warfare, and Will is smart enough to know what he did.
      There are some people, Geoff, who have never seen a tax they didn’t like. They think that other people’s income belongs to them.
      Sort of like how teachers unions believe people’s children “belong” to the teachers and that they know best how to raise them. Teachers won’t admit this, but it’s true. Most teachers union are leftist. Strange that they should have ANY politics that enters students’ lives.

      Now, how will we house all those illegal aliens after they are brought to Belmont and Watertown?
      Any ideas, you Leftist White Suburbanites?

      1. Stooping to personal attacks pretty much makes one’s comments irrelevant. The vitriol drowns out any possibility that you might hear another point of view. Not good for making policy, not good for representative democracy..

      2. Dee:

        I found your comments relevant. As far as those opposing them, I bring Cervantes masterpiece:

        Don Quijote in his quest, when passing through a village in Spain was encountered by a pack of dogs barking at him and his assistant, and he told Sancho Panza, “Sancho, the dogs are barking, it means that we are moving forward.”

        With this in mind,, keep up the good work.

    4. I am not talking about anyone but the very wealthy paying their fair share, and I do agree with increasing the exemption on the Estate tax. A lot of racism buried in a few of these responses. Some of you might be happier in NH.

  6. This is a good step in the right direction, Like the first responders to an infrastructure collapse after decades of neglect by the legislature. “tax accident scene” Now, the hard work begins like tax reform to fundamentally fix the underlying structural problems so this relief can be continued without repeating one-time fixes every year. Thought should be given to matching beneficiaries and burdens. Example: the issue of paying for local education with property taxes on senior citizens who do not benefit from it in any meaningful way. Can business be taxed for education since they are the biggest beneficiaries of the educated minds produced by the public sector that get away without paying for it? There are a whole lot more inconsistencies in the tax code that need to be realigned.

    1. Why is Watertown uniquely bearing an extra burden in educating special needs students? When were voters consulted in this arrangement? Can I have dates and links please?

      1. Watertown hosts the Perkins School for the blind. Some people with children who have very challenging disabilities locate in Watertown so that they can be near their children as they receive the world class care available at Perkins. The tuition for some of those children ends up on Watertown’s budget, simply because they are Watertown residents, enroll in the public school system, and are then legally entitled to care for that meets their needs. Through the special education circuit breaker, the state pays the majority of extraordinary costs for children that need out-of-district care from any community. In the case of Watertown, we’ve created an additional special reserve account to help with the unusual concentration of costs associated with Perkins.

    2. Edward, I’m a senior citizen. My wife and I have just written a large (for us) property tax check to the town of Belmont. You say we “do not benefit from it in any meaningful way.” I say, all three of my children went through the Belmont school system. It gave them an excellent education and helped launch them on life. The cost of their education was partially paid for by the Belmont senior citizens of their time. Now, we help pay for the education of a new generation of our community. We benefit from educating today’s Belmont children because doing so supports our community, makes Belmont a more attractive place for families to live, and educates the leaders of tomorrow.

      Our house has never burned down. Does that mean that I receive no benefit from the portion of the town budget that goes to pay firefighters and other First Responders? Of course not. We are all members of a Commonwealth, and part of our Common Wealth is education. Making our quarterly tax payments are never fun, and sometimes painful, but we never feel that it is wasted money.

      1. It’s lovely to be able to afford large checks in old age. Pity such a small slice of the population can. I’m sure it’s character building for the lower classes. But that’s why these are called luxury values, as enviable and high status as anything one could pick up at Bloomie’s

      2. How about if you never had children? Have they given you a rebate check?
        Let’s look at the value of fire fighter issue.That is a lot more level playing field where the value of the service is broadly equal regardless of age. The percentage of the property tax for EMS services is on par with a lot of other town services and they do follow market rules. The school budget in my town consumes about 75% of the property tax and serves 25% of the residents. It is the Commonwealth not the Communism of Mass So I will stand on my original statement.

  7. Hi Will,
    I heard from my union (MTA – CSU) that funding raises for many state workers unions was cut from the Supplemental. The things that received $ are nice but how about some balance for those who work everyday.

    1. Correct. That item is in the supplemental as opposed to the main budget which this post is about. But yes, the supplemental was only done in part. There are a number of other items that remain to be resolved. Those agreements will get funded — the legislature has never failed to fund a collective bargaining agreement.

  8. From a Brownsberger admirer who lives in an adjacent Senate district….
    Re income tax reform: many of the available exemptions and deductions from income haven’t changed in years, even decades. For examples:
    Personal exemptions $4,400 single, $6,800 head of household, $8,800 filing jointly
    65-and-over exemption $700 each
    Social Security/Medicare tax paid $2,000 maximum each.
    The value of these decreases over time relative to wage inflation.
    The cited examples and others should be increased to cover such inflation since they were last set, and allowed to automatically increase each year based on some relevant wage index (much as the federal standard deduction automatically increases, and as the $1 million threshold for the “millionaire” 4% state tax surcharge will automatically increase.) Doing this would deliver tax relief to all, perhaps small but especially significant to lower-income taxpayers.
    I hope this small but meaningful change is under consideration during the tax reform sausage-grinding.

  9. As the high income earners leave the State there will be an ever dwindling source of money for in crowd to steal from. Eventually all these programs and raises will either be reduced or made worthless as our economy crumbles. Communism never works.

    1. Dee:

      I found your comments relevant. As far as those opposing them, I bring Cervantes masterpiece:

      Don Quijote in his quest, when passing through a village in Spain was encountered by a pack of dogs barking at him and his assistant, and he told Sancho Panza, “Sancho, the dogs are barking, it means that we are moving forward.”

      With this in mind,, keep up the good work.

  10. Thank you Will for your service- I’m glad to hear that our dollars are going towards a more fair society. Childcare and infrastructure, feeding and educating our children, housing the homeless, helping the elderly and disabled, providing support to families and the environment. We live in an imperfect world, but I am proud that we are trying as a Commonwealth to make Massachusetts a leader in creating a better, safer and more equitable place to live and work for everyone. You should be proud of your accomplishments:) ?

  11. How about making the inheritance tax the same threshold as the federal? This was a change instituted when it was a percentage of the Federal inheritance tax and when Bush did away with it the inheritance tax (George Steinbrenner died in 2010. Not a lick of taxes were paid on his estate) Legislature scrambled for a bad solution. GO a step further, Get rid of the cliff effect on ALL revenue issues in the state. It is also in the senior circuit breaker. If you make $1 over the $60,000 you loose the senior exemption on the income tax, Ditto property tax deferral. (don’t get me started on this one. It is amazing how one of the pillars of state revenue involves home equity theft from senior citizens) I theorize this must be one of those vestigial remnants north of the Mason-Dixon line equivalent of Jim crow that any one below (regardless of race) gets caught up in the situation, But then again the state benefits from this “by-catch” so there is no incentive to change. So many abominable concepts buried in state taxation that need to be ferreted out and changed.

    I can understand this patch and fix, but the process needs to be viewed deeper to more fundamental changes with an eye to tax fairness. The state is loosing population. Everyone has two ballots on their shoes and many are voting with their feet.

    Hopefully the various revenue committees will not go into hibernation until next budget cycle goes into a crisis situation and address these problems.

  12. $181 MM for MBTA capital projects, when they’ve asked for 10x that? Our state Senate (along with Gov. Baker and the State House) got us into this mess… i.e. a barely functioning local transit system…. and you must do more to get us out of it! This is unacceptable.

    1. HI Kathi,

      The MBTA board-approved Capital Budget is, as you say ten times that, roughly $2b. That mostly comes from federal funds and bond funds. It is not subject to legislative appropriation, but it is moving forward. Right now, that’s about as much money as they feel that they get out the door and they are not asking for more. Our $181m will not actually add to their project spend — they can only manage so many projects. Our add-on will just convert some of their planned spend from bonds to pay-as-you-go, leaving more bonding capacity for future years.

      We do expect the MBTA to ask for more support in coming years and I am absolutely committed to providing that support.

      1. Thank you for clarifying, I believe what you’re saying is that the legislature is funding the MBTA to the level they asked for in this year’s state budget. (?)
        I remain incensed that the previous Governor and both houses of the state legislature let us get to this point of degradation. This point can’t be stated too often! All citizens must encourage elected representatives to have the courage to fund maintenance and capital improvements even when regular folks don’t see the importance of it … until degradation of service becomes endemic, then it’s too late to fix anything quickly and regular folks suffer the consequences.

  13. Will: Keep up the good work and thanks for all the info on the Budget. It was a lot more than I cold get from other sources. All in all, it is a good bill.

  14. There is something from the past that can lessen the extreme views of the present. Many people excoriate giving educational privileges to migrants. They forget the reciprocal nature of relations among living things. In Macbeth, Duncan, the king, says to Macbeth and Banquo, ,” I have begun to plant thee and will labor to make thee full of growing.”. Banquo’s reply is “There, if I grow, the harvest is your own.” Our region benefits when our migrants (and underserved natives) are educated.

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