MA Senate passes budget, invests in education, childcare and health

The Massachusetts State Senate unanimously passed a $46.2 billion state budget for Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) on Friday giving final legislative approval to a conference committee report that secures over $36 million in targeted investments.  Passed with bipartisan support, the legislature’s annual appropriations bill (H.5146) aims to move the Commonwealth towards an equitable recovery by making critical investments in early education and childcare, housing supports, public health, and various other sectors impacted by COVID-19.

“Despite the economic obstacles our Commonwealth continues to face, the Fiscal Year 2021 budget secures critical investments in early education and childcare, food security, housing supports, and healthcare,” said Dean of the Massachusetts Senate Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton).  “As we grapple with significant challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, this budget demonstrates our collective commitment to allocating the resources needed to protect public health, ensure adequate services, and spur economic recovery.”

The FY21 Budget secures $1.1 billion in Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) for local communities and protects Massachusetts students and educational institutions by maintaining Chapter 70 funding in a manner consistent with the agreement reached between the Senate, House, and Administration in July by providing $5.283 billion, an increase of $107.6 million over FY20.  This additional level of investment ensures stability for the state’s K?12 population and allows school districts to maintain foundation spending levels while accounting for enrollment and inflation changes.

The FY21 Budget recommends a total of $46.2 billion and adjusts pre-pandemic revenue estimates to reflect an anticipated shortfall of approximately $3.5 billion. In order to bridge the expected revenue shortfall, the FY21 Budget relies on $1.7 billion from the Commonwealth’s “Rainy Day” Stabilization Fund.  The remaining difference would be reconciled through $1.38 billion in available federal supports and over $400 million in new revenue initiatives.

“I am also proud to have sponsored local amendments on behalf of the First Plymouth and Bristol district that have been included in the Fiscal Year 2021 Budget,” said Senator Pacheco.  “At a time when so many families and individuals are struggling, these resources will help the communities I represent maintain services and close financial gaps at the local level.” 

Line Item 7010-0005  provids $125,000 for the school system in the City of Taunton and $125,000 expended equally to the school systems of the towns of Middleborough and Wareham for distance learning technology for underserved students made necessary by the COVID19 pandemic.

Line Item 4512-2023 contains language filed by Senator Pacheco providing $250,000 for local COVID-19 pandemic emergency relief to the Taunton Emergency Task Force, which serves the communities of Berkley, Dighton, Raynham, and Taunton.  

Line Item 5095-0015 contains language filed by Senator Pacheco requiring the Department of Mental Health to maintain at least 45 continuing care inpatient beds at Taunton State Hospital and at least 671 inpatient beds in its overall system in FY 2021.  This provision also prohibits the Department of Mental Health from entering into new vendor-operated lease agreements expanding existing vendor-operated programs or interagency agreements.  It also requires the development of a comprehensive, long-term master plan for campus use, with appropriate community input, and provides that any plan to extend facilities would need to be determined by March 2nd, 2021 before any additional agreements may be made.

Senator Pacheco supported a number of other provisions approved in the FY21 Budget, including Line Item 8900-0001, which he cosponsored with Senator Paul Feeney (D-Foxborough) that extends $2.2 million to communities that host state correctional facilities, such as the Town of Bridgewater.

The budget also funds MassHealth at a total of $18.2 billion to maintain critical access to affordable health care coverage for over 1.9 million people.  As COVID-19 continues to spread across the Commonwealth, these resources are designed to preserve access to essential services and comprehensive care for the state’s most vulnerable children, seniors, and low-income residents.

  The Fiscal Year 2021 budget is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting final executive approval.