A Balanced Budget
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The following was provided by State Senator Katherine Clark:
The Massachusetts Senate on Friday voted unanimously to pass a balanced budget for fiscal year 2013 (FY13), prioritizing funding for cities and towns and commitments that allow for greater transparency and smarter financial planning for the future. The Senate used a combination of ongoing revenue initiatives, one-time resources, spending reductions, and no new taxes to close a $1.4 billion budget gap.
The hallmark of this budget is the Senate’s continuing commitment to its municipal partners by boosting investments in local aid, Chapter 70 education funding, and the Special Education Circuit Breaker, the three largest sources of direct state aid to cities, towns, and school districts. The budget also provided critical support for housing, dental benefits, and the community preservation act.
I worked closely with Senate Ways and Means Committee to include $16.8 million to be targeted toward dozens of communities facing inequities based on the Chapter 70 funding formula and to pass an amendment that reconvenes the Foundation Budget Review Commission. The Commission was originally established in 1993 to examine the foundation budget and to look at specific programs and services to meet the Commonwealth’s educational goals, as well as to examine the effectiveness of such programs and services.
Through both sponsored amendments and collaborative efforts with colleagues and the Senate Ways and Means Committee, I was also able to:
- Lead the effort to unanimously pass an amendment to increase public safety by closing a drunk-driving loophole that was exposed by a Supreme Judicial Court ruling last week. The language will enhance penalties for repeat drunk drivers.
- Provide fuel assistance forward funding that will allow low-income heating assistance programs for vulnerable elderly and others to begin on November 1 with no net cost to the Commonwealth.
- Increase funding for elder protective services by over $600 thousand dollars to help investigate and resolve elder abuse and neglect. The plan increased support for our emergency food banks and our veterans. Additionally, the Senate increased funding for adult dental care.
- Fund the ALS Registry to assist critical research on this debilitating disease.
- Increase salaries of direct care workers who help the most vulnerable in our state. This increase will help keep those workers, who have not seen a salary increase in five years.
- Increase funding for the METCO program that is critical to education in many of our communities.
This budget increases spending from last year’s levels, allowing for the restoration of some painful cuts from previous years and making new targeted investments, yet there are critical programs for our most vulnerable citizens that I will be advocating for in the conference committee. Particularly, my focus is on programs that support those with developmental disabilities and their families.
The Senate budget is practical and makes smart investments in education, our municipalities, public safety, and safety net programs that will allow the Commonwealth maintain fiscal health and continued economic recovery.