BOSTON – The Senate last Thursday voted to pass a $402.2 million dollar supplemental budget to cover unanticipated costs in the final months of FY2015, announced Senator Michael Moore (D-Millbury). The spending bill includes funding to further reduce caseloads at the Department of Children and Families, and financial relief for municipalities struggling with the unusually high cost of snow and ice removal.
“The supplemental budget passed by the Senate is indicative of our commitment to offering strong support for municipalities and the most vulnerable residents of the Commonwealth, while maintaining a disciplined financial approach. Additional funding for DCF will further reduce caseloads on overburdened social workers, and meaningfully improve their ability to serve the residents of the Commonwealth” said Moore.
“This mid-year spending bill allows us to sustain critical government services through the end of Fiscal Year 2015 while maintaining a fiscally responsible budget,” said Senator Karen Spilka (D-Ashland), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “These funds support social workers, emergency assistance and shelter for homeless families and other services that help children, families and communities across the Commonwealth. We also provide funding to help our communities continue to recover from this winter’s historic storms.”
“Thank you to Senator Spilka and the members of the Ways and Means Committee for their hard work on this bill,” said Senate President Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst). “This legislation puts the Commonwealth on solid footing for the rest of the fiscal year in a responsible way while funding services to help communities and residents across the Commonwealth.”
The supplemental budget includes $35 million to support an increase in the Department of Children and Families’ caseloads in foster care, guardianship, adoption, and group homes for foster children. The bill also includes $51.5 million to address deficiencies in the state emergency assistance homeless shelter program and $3 million to support an increase in the Department of Housing and Community Development’s caseload for HomeBASE, a program that helps families avoid homelessness.
The bill allocates $50 million to fund snow and ice removal costs for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and $7 million to reimburse state agencies for extraordinary expenses incurred as a result of severe winter storms. The Senate also passed an amendment allowing municipalities to amortize payments on snow and ice removal costs until 2020. “It is important to remember that municipal budgets have been hit as hard as any by the record snow-fall” said Senator Moore. “This language will ease the financial burden for cities and towns across the Commonwealth.
The bill also allows the University of Massachusetts system to retain tuition collected from in-state students beginning July 1, 2015, which will make the costs to students more transparent. The campuses currently retain tuition collected from out-of-state students only.
Additionally, the bill makes technical corrections to several sections of the General Laws, allows for changes to the composition of some state boards, and validates thirteen collective bargaining agreements.
The Senate also adopted amendments to temporarily allow the Committee for Public Counsel Services to waive the billable hours cap for private counsel in the children and family law division, to authorize the use of statewide grand juries and to enhance Health Connector reporting requirements.
Last week, the House of Representatives passed a similar supplemental spending bill. The Senate and House will now produce a compromise bill for final passage and the Governor’s signature.