BOSTON – On Wednesday, Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury) announced that the Legislature approved the final Conference Committee report which establishes a $38.1 billion Fiscal Year 2016 (FY16) state budget.
The Conference Committee, which is comprised of a bipartisan group of six legislators from the House and Senate, was tasked with resolving differences between versions of the budget passed by both chambers earlier this year. The final report issued by the Committee was the product of month-long negotiations and reflects a 3.5% increase in spending over last year.
“As the state’s economy continues to recover from the recent recession, I am proud to support efforts to invest available funds in programs and services which better the lives of those in the communities I represent,” said Sen. Moore. “While no budget is ever perfect, I am particularly pleased that targeted increases in funding have been provided to critical accounts including local aid, education, public safety and transportation.”
Unrestricted General Government Aid within the FY16 budget was funded at $979.8 million which represents a $34 million increase over the last fiscal year. These figures translate to approximately a 3.6% increase in funding for every community in the Commonwealth— the largest single increase in nearly a decade.
The budget also includes a $111.2 million increase in Chapter 70 funding over FY15. While Sen. Moore advocated for even higher education aid in the Senate budget, the final budget approved by the Legislature provides a minimum increase of $25 per pupil. Sen. Moore also backed efforts to maintain funding for the Kindergarten Expansion Grant program after hearing from local leaders about the importance of the grants to the community. The Legislature ultimately approved $18.6 million for the program in FY16.
Sen. Moore also supported other successful local aid initiatives including the restoration of $7.5 million for regional school transportation funding totaling $59 million, and a $1 million increase for homeless student transportation reimbursements amounting to $8.35 million. The Special Education Circuit Breaker program received an $18.3 million increase totalling $271.7 million in order to fully fund the program. The budget also included $80.5 million for charter school reimbursements which, although slightly below funding levels approved by the Senate earlier this year, still marks a $3.64 million increase over FY15.
Through his experiences as Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, Sen. Moore identified the need for a system-wide plan to target sexual violence on public college campuses. As part of this effort, a Moore-sponsored amendment included within the budget provides $100,000 for the Department of Higher Education to acquire a consultant to report on campus sexual assault initiatives. The information compiled by the consultant will assist in the development of a strategic plan to address sexual assault incidences on public college campuses. This amendment also aligns with another successful $100,000 amendment filed by Sen. Moore for the Children’s Advocacy Center of Worcester County to help young individuals who may be victims of physical and sexual abuse.
Sen. Moore also championed several other amendments that were successfully included within the budget, including an amendment aimed at eliminating inefficiencies of the small businesses registration process. The provision establishes a Special Commission to study the feasibility of streamlining the registration process for new small businesses by increasing information sharing among state agencies. Sen. Moore also helped to secure $5 million in funding for an increase to reimbursement rates for the early education workforce and early education programs.
In an effort to help hard-working families, the FY16 budget will increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by lifting the family cap from $951 to $1,459 beginning in tax year 2016. Taxpayers of the Commonwealth have also been protected by language included within the budget that prevents the use of state funds or tax expenditures for the proposed 2024 Boston Olympics.
In response to the failures of the public transit system this past winter, and other long-term issues with the public transit system, the budget also establishes an MBTA Fiscal Management and Control Board (FMCB). The FMCB, which was supported by Sen. Moore, creates a direct line of accountability from the MBTA to the Governor’s office without creating additional bureaucracy.
The FY16 budget has now been sent to Governor Charlie Baker for final consideration. The Governor has 10 days to review the budget and to take action to approve or veto the entire budget, veto or reduce specific line items, veto outside sections or submit changes as an amendment to the budget for further consideration by the Legislature.
To continue tracking the status of the FY16 budget, and to view additional information, please visit the Legislature’s website, www.malegislature.gov¬, or contact Senator Moore’s State House Office.