Category Archives: Legislature

State Senatorial debate Tuesday night – Election next Tuesday, 10/17

20171010_Senate debate

Paul Feeney, Joe Shortsleeve, and Jacob Ventura (left to right)

State Senatorial debate Tuesday night – Election next Tuesday, 10/17

Tuesday night the three candidates for our vacant State Senate seat held a two hour debate at the Medfield High School auditorium, run by Medfield TV.  I participated as a panelist to ask questions. I really knew little about the candidates, so I welcomed the opportunity to learn about them and their positions. And in the process I learned for whom I will vote next Tuesday.

Paul Feeney is the Democrat, who described himself as someone who went directly from high school to the work force, as a telephone worker – for decades. I understood that he was active in union work seeking to preserve jobs, and that he ultimately recently worked on Senator Timilty’s staff. Along the way he was active in town matters in Foxborough, being chair of the selectmen, a coach, among other things.

Joe Shortsleeve lives in town and is running as an independent, because he says there is too much noise among the two political parties. Joe described himself to be politically in the center between the other two candidates, and as a self-described “fiscal conservative, liberal on social issues.” Joe said he had a 35 year career as a broadcast journalist, mainly with WBZ TV, where he was part of the I-Team.

Jacob Ventura is the Republican, an attorney, a former staffer for a State Representative, and has training and/or experience in business and/or finance. He has been endorsed by Governor Baker and our own Representative Shawn Dooley.

All three are bright and well spoken. Joe Shortsleeve has the most highly polished delivery, as one who has spoken a lot in his career. Paul Feeney delivered what I thought of as the most impassioned comments. Jacob Ventura spoke with the well reasoned, analytical thinking familiar to me as representative of his attorney training.

I will be happily be voting for Paul Feeney. I am a Democrat, but I will be voting based almost entirely on what I heard from him Tuesday night. First, he recounted having had much more experience in positions of responsibility, in his union, his town, and other organizations, than I heard about from of the other two. Second, he expressed a palpable passion for serving the people, and while I heard the other two say some similar things, I did not hear or feel the similar passion in their voices when they said it. Third, he promised a positive campaign, and delivered on that in the debate.  Lastly, my question to the three had to do with what solutions they would suggest to our insufficient state budget monies (i.e. insufficient monies to fix our infrastructure and insufficient local aide to satisfy Medfield’s municipal needs), and he was the only one of the three willing to talk about the revenue side of the equation, versus the old saw about cutting spending and waste.

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For the state budget wonks

This came yesterday too, from former resident and legislature watcher, John Nunnari:

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HOUSE, SENATE RUSH OVERDUE $40.2 BILLION BUDGET TO BAKER [+MEDIA]

By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, JULY 7, 2017…..Largely discarding spending plans they approved in the spring, the House and Senate on Friday sent Gov. Charlie Baker a $40.2 billion state budget that holds state spending flat, includes higher employer health care assessments, and, according to some Democrats, underscores the need for higher taxes and new revenues.

The bill was rushed through the House on a 140-9 vote and then cleared the Senate 36-2. After the votes, Democratic legislative leaders offered differing points of view on their final product.

“In the midst of a tough fiscal climate we’ve delivered a responsible budget that makes targeted investments and protects our most vulnerable citizens,” House Speaker Robert DeLeo said. “I am particularly proud of the work we’ve done on early education and care – which will have a lasting impact on both the workforce and the Commonwealth’s children – and supporting those battling addiction.”

Senate President Stanley Rosenberg took a more dim view of the budget, calling it “the harshest state budget since the last recession.”

“It would have been somewhat better had it contained the Senate’s modest revenue proposals including those on Airbnb, internet hotel resellers, flavored cigars, film tax, and the Community Preservation Act,” he said. “We can take some measure of pride in what we were able to do for local aid, children, and veterans, but too many were left behind.”

Lawmakers put aside many investments they had planned and settled for a budget with a bottom line that roughly mirrors projected state spending for last fiscal year. They did so because tax revenue growth forced them to mark down available revenues by $733 million.

“This budget is not without pain,” Senate Ways and Means Chairwoman Karen Spilka told reporters. “It’s clear that the state is facing a shortfall in revenue that will have an impact on real people’s lives and there are cuts throughout this budget.”

SHNS Video: Sen. Spilka briefing

Asked to identify some of the cuts she described as painful, Spilka said there were reductions in the Executive Office of Human Services and lawmakers were unable to preserve full funding for an account that helps cities and towns pay special education costs.

Spilka said members of a conference committee also pulled aside $104 million for a new reserve fund to cover spending in county sheriff offices and the Committee for Public Counsel Services, the state’s public defender agency. The revenue gap was primarily covered through $502 million in spending reductions, $205 million in “efficiencies and reversions” and the $83 million in revenue from not meeting a trigger to reduce the income tax rate, Spilka said.

House budget chief Rep. Brian Dempsey said the revenue markdown forced $400 million in changes to line items, but said he would hesitate to describe them as cuts because he said in many cases fiscal 2018 spending levels will be higher than levels in the original fiscal 2017 budget.

“These reductions are never easy,” Dempsey said.

SHNS Video: Rep. Dempsey briefing

The Department of Developmental Services will receive a $57 million increase over last year’s budget, but not the $84 million increase the House had initially proposed, Dempsey said.

The budget, Dempsey said, recognizes the problem of “revenue growth slippage” — Spilka called it a “new fiscal reality” — but still invests $40 million in unrestricted local aid, $119 million more in school aid, and $15 million to address the salaries of early education workers.

“I am very pleased that local aid was maintained,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones, who took issue with the budget development process, which has been marked by a high level of secrecy. Jones also suggested the budget was balanced only by consciously underfunding accounts.

Rep. James Lyons, an Andover Republican, said the budget is predicated on “hopeful” levels of revenue growth, suggesting a 2.9 percent rate of growth is too optimistic since collections over the past year have grown by about 1.4 percent. “These revenue numbers are not going to meet the expectations,” Lyons said.

Another Republican, Rep. Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton, said the rushed vote on the bill that was released Friday morning made it “impossible” for legislators to know for sure what was in the budget and what had been left out.

Senate Democrats shot down a bid by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr to give senators more than a few hours to read the budget before voting on it. Noting an interim budget is in place for the month of July, Tarr said the Senate could afford to postpone the vote until next week.

“It is inappropriate for us at this time to consider a document filed just a few hours ago,” the Gloucester Republican said. “It is more than 320 pages and spends more than $40 billion, which members have had a chance to review for only a very short period of time.”

Sen. William Brownsberger said he viewed Friday’s vote as one of “do I want the state to run or do I not want the state to run.” He noted that the Senate could have waited but that the conference committee report could not be amended regardless.

“We could do it later, but it’s not going to change. The deal’s not going to change,” he said. “I have confidence in the Senate Ways and Means team, I think they did the best they could and it is what it is.”

The budget features new assessments on employers designed to generate $200 million to help the state keep up with the rising costs of MassHealth, the public health insurance program that serves about one million people.

One assessment will boost a per-employee assessment paid by employers from $51 to $77 per year, while another will hit employers with up to $750 per employee if their workers choose MassHealth even though they have access to insurance through their employers.

The new assessments are coupled with plans to reduce the size of a scheduled increase in unemployment insurance rates to $500 million, from $850 million, but House and Senate Democrats discarded MassHealth reforms that Baker recommended in June and which employer groups had hoped would be coupled with the new assessments.

“The proposed state budget fails to honor a compromise reached with the business community that promised reforms alongside any assessment to close MassHealth budget gaps,” Christopher Carlozzi, Massachusetts state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, said. “The cost of healthcare is a top issue for Massachusetts small business owners and adding an additional assessment without reining in the cost of a bloated MassHealth program is irresponsible and guarantees the promise of greater budget problems in years to come. The legislature needs to understand that ‘shared responsibility’ is not a one-way street that consistently requires funds from the small business community without addressing the underlying cost drivers.”

Democrats in the Legislature said the budget requires Baker to extract $150 million in savings at MassHealth, but took pride in ruling out eligibility and benefit standard changes. Rep. Christine Barber claimed Baker’s plans would have “undermined” the state’s health care coverage goals.

The compromise budget retains a planned $100 million deposit into the state’s “rainy day” fund, a commitment that Dempsey said could prove important to credit rating agencies who have questioned the strength of the state’s reserves. The deposit would bring the total balance in the fund to $1.4 billion by the end of the fiscal year, but about half of it is contingent on capital gains tax revenues meeting projections.

Dempsey also noted that the House’s marijuana regulation bill, which is still tied up in negotiations, includes $50 million for substance abuse treatment from taxes on retail pot sales, which the House proposed to tax at 28 percent, but the Senate has favored a 12 percent tax.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity, I think, to tax an industry that ought to see a higher tax and use that money really for the betterment of the citizens of the commonwealth and treatment,” he said.

The consensus budget sided with the Senate on a reserve for the implementation of the new marijuana law, appropriating $2 million rather than the House’s approved $4 million.

Jim Borghesani, spokesman for the Yes on 4 Coalition and the Marijuana Policy Project, said the $2 million reserve “falls far short of the funding necessary to build an effective regulatory structure in the time set by the Legislature and the governor.”

“The cost of licensing and tracking software alone, which must be in place before applications can be processed, is estimated at $5.5 million,” Borghesani said. “The Treasurer requested $10 million for the year-one budget. We take elected officials at their word that there will be no more delays, and we hope funding is set at the amount necessary to prevent any more of them.”

The final budget keeps the University of Massachusetts system on track for what UMass President Marty Meehan projected will be a 2 percent to 3 percent hike in student charges this year, including the House’s appropriation of roughly $513 million. Higher education advocates and UMass officials had hoped negotiators would stick with the Senate’s higher figure of $534 million, which was about $4 million shy of the university’s request.

The advocacy group Public Higher Education of Massachusetts said the budget “hurts students and families” by underfunding UMass by $30 million, with state universities and community colleges faring “not much better.”

The budget deal does not include a Senate amendment that municipal officials urged the conference committee to preserve in order to rejuvenate the collapsing partnership between the state and communities that have raised property taxes under the Community Preservation Act.

Lawmakers spared from cuts their planned investments in local aid. “It is absolutely clear that the Legislature looked to protect cities and towns from the state’s revenue challenges,” Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Mass. Municipal Association, said.

Spilka said budget conferees left out MassHealth reforms recommended by Baker in June dealing with eligibility and benefit changes because they “rejected the notion that we should accept the governor’s health care proposal without the necessary transparency.”

“At a moment when we are rightly horrified by the lack of transparency in the health care debate on the national level, it’s important that we must stick to our principles and ensure such an important proposal for Massachusetts and its residents goes through the proper process,” she said.

According to House officials, the budget is predicated on tax revenues growing 2.9 percent rather than the originally anticipated 3.9 percent, and the budget’s $40.2 billion bottom line is about $1 billion higher than the budget approved at this time last year.

Projected fiscal 2017 spending is estimated at more than $40 billion despite only a 1.4 percent increase in tax revenues last fiscal year, a growth level that prompted Gov. Charlie Baker to hold down agency spending and raid trust funds for nearly $140 million.

Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, a Jamaica Plain Democrat who joined Webster Republican Sen. Ryan Fattman in opposing the budget, told the News Service afterward she was “still grappling” with her vote.

“At some point I think you have to be willing to recognize when you are the frog in a boiling pot of water and say, ‘This is not good enough, there are some choices that we could have made without adding a penny to the bottom line that would have done better for the people of Massachusetts,'” she said.

The budget includes “some painful cuts” to elder services programs but does not “appear to materially impair these services overall,” according to Mass. Home Care executive director Al Norman. More than $5.6 million was cut from Executive Office of Elder Affairs line items, according to Norman, who said there should still be sufficient funding to avoid a waiting list for home care services.

Supporters of a proposed surtax on high earners, a proposal marked for a 2018 ballot vote that could generate $2 billion, say low tax revenue growth, rising health care costs and spending demands, and the threat of federal funding cuts are forcing the state to weigh new revenues.

“The projected revenue shortfalls forced the Legislature to abandon some of the modest investments their earlier budgets had sought and led to even greater reliance on temporary measures to balance accounts,” Noah Berger, president of the left-leaning Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this budget does not even begin to make the kind of major long-term investments that would improve our economy and quality of life by expanding educational opportunity for all of our young people and enhancing our failing infrastructure. Doing that would require fixing flaws in our tax system that allow the highest income residents of the state to pay the smallest share of their income in state and local taxes.”

Given the spending choices lawmakers were forced to make, Dempsey said he and other House leaders might be thinking differently about pursuing additional sources of revenue through taxes or other means if it weren’t likely that voters will decide next year whether to impose a 4 percent surtax on income over $1 million.

“If that were not out there, I think you’d look at it a little bit differently,” Dempsey said.

Newton mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren released a statement Friday afternoon expressing concerns with the spending plan.

“By continuing the annual spectacle of using one-time fixes, fiscal sleights of hand and gimmicks to fix the budget, Beacon Hill has decided we are a Commonwealth that will not recognize the truth that state government needs new revenue,” Warren said. “If we don’t fix this broken budget process – if we don’t stand up and demand transparency and admit that we need new revenue – the toll on the Commonwealth will only get worse. The key question facing us is what kind of Commonwealth we want to be. This budget and the way it was developed and passed suggest the Commonwealth we are becoming needs to change.”

Warren also criticized the conference committee’s omission of language directing officials to study the feasibility of building a high-speed rail line between Boston and Springfield. The Senate had unanimously backed the study, an amendment offered by East Longmeadow Democrat Sen. Eric Lesser, saying it train service would allow for a better link between the economies of greater Boston and western Massachusetts. Baker vetoed a similar study from last year’s budget.

[Matt Murphy, Katie Lannan and Colin A. Young contributed reporting.]

END
07/07/2017

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MMA says state budget protected municipalities

This alert came yesterday from the Massachusetts Municipal Association with its analysis of the state budget that passed the legislature this week: “Legislators recognize that cities and towns have already passed their fiscal 2018 budgets, which is why they protected the UGGA and Chapter 70 increases that were announced earlier this year and included in the House and Senate budgets.”

MMA

July 7, 2017
 

LEGISLATURE’S FY 2018 STATE BUDGET FULLY FUNDS 39.9 MILLION UGGA INCREASE

LAWMAKERS VOTE TODAY ON THE BUDGET AFTER LOWERING FY 2018 REVENUE ESTIMATES BY $700M

IN SPITE OF WIDESPREAD CUTS TO STATE ACCOUNTS, LEGISLATORS MAINTAIN KEY INVESTMENTS IN MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL AID

• INCLUDES THE FULL $39.9M INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID (UGGA)

• INCREASES CHAPTER 70 TO $4.75B TO FUND MINIMUM AID AT $30 PER STUDENT

• CH. 70 INCLUDES $12.5M TO PROTECT AGAINST LOST FUNDING FOR LOW-INCOME STUDENTS

• ADDS $4M TO SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER

• LEVEL-FUNDS MOST OTHER MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS

• AIRBNB LODGING TAX REFORMS DEFERRED TO SEPARATE LEGISLATION 

 

Earlier this morning, the Legislature’s budget conference committee reported out a lean $40.2 billion fiscal 2018 state budget plan that is based on a $700 million reduction in expected tax revenues for next year. Very weak tax collections this year have created a $440 million hole in the FY 2017 budget, and forced lawmakers to make a $700 million downward adjustment in their FY 2018 forecast.

The House and Senate have scheduled formal sessions for this afternoon (Friday, July 7th), and it is expected that legislators will vote to approve and send the budget to Governor Baker today. The Governor will then have 10 days to sign, veto or recommend changes to the appropriations and outside sections.

While the Legislature’s budget enacts widespread reductions in state budget accounts, Representatives and Senators are clearly protecting and prioritizing municipal and school aid, as the conference committee budget (H. 3800) makes key investments in local aid priorities, including a $39.9 million increase in unrestricted municipal aid (UGGA), a $119 million increase in Chapter 70 school aid, and a $4 million increase in special education reimbursements. The remaining accounts are generally level funded.

Legislators recognize that cities and towns have already passed their fiscal 2018 budgets, which is why they protected the UGGA and Chapter 70 increases that were announced earlier this year and included in the House and Senate budgets. Any last-minute reductions in UGGA or Chapter 70 would have disrupted local budgets and forced mid-year cuts. Fortunately, lawmakers went to great lengths to prevent this.

Please Click this Link Now to Download H. 3800, the Legislature’s Fiscal 2018 Budget – You Can See Your Community’s UGGA and Chapter 70 Amounts in Section 3 of the Budget, which Starts on Page 226
$39.9 MILLION INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID
In a major victory for cities and towns, the Legislature’s fiscal 2018 budget plan provides $1.061 billion for UGGA, a $39.9 million increase over current funding – the same increase proposed by Governor Baker and voted by the House and Senate. Almost all of UGGA funding comes from $985M in expected Lottery proceeds and $65M from the Plainridge gaming facility. The full $39.9 million UGGA increase is a top priority for cities and towns, because municipalities are counting on these funds to balance their budgets and maintain essential services for their residents.

CHAPTER 70 MINIMUM AID WOULD INCREASE TO $30 PER STUDENT
With $4.75 billion for Chapter 70 aid, the Legislature’s budget includes a $119 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid (this is $27.5 million higher than the $91.4 million increase in House One), providing a minimum aid increase of at least $30 per student (compared to the $20-per-student amount in the Governor’s budget). The Legislature’s budget continues to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2007, and builds on the proposal by the Governor to start addressing shortfalls in the foundation budget framework. The Legislature’s budget increases foundation budget funding by adding more weight to the health insurance cost factor.

The Legislature’s budget includes $12.5M in the Chapter 70 appropriation to hold school districts harmless from changes in the method of counting low-income students. This is similar to the Legislature’s handling of the problem in the fiscal 2017 budget. H. 3800 includes language stating that this “transitional” assistance to address the problems in calculating low-income student costs is included in the per-district distribution amounts listed in Section 3 of the budget.

In the context of a very tight budget year, the Legislature’s increase in Chapter 70 funding is certainly welcome progress. The MMA continues to give top priority to full funding for the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations, and over the long-term will work to build on this increase.

$4 MILLION INCREASE FOR THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER
In another budget advancement for cities and towns, the Legislature’s budget would add $4 million to the Special Education Circuit Breaker program, providing $281 million. The Governor’s budget proposed level-funding at $277 million. The $4 million increase is a step forward, although this is still short of full funding for a vital program that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services. The MMA will work to continue building on this welcome increase.

FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS REMAINS FLAT
The Legislature’s budget would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $80.5 million, far below the amount necessary to fully fund the statutory formula that was originally established to offset a portion of the funding that communities are required to transfer to charter schools. The fiscal 2017 funding level is $54.6 million below what is necessary to fund the reimbursement formula that is written into state law. If this program is level funded, the shortfall will grow to an estimated $76.4 million in fiscal 2018. This would lead to the continued and growing diversion of Chapter 70 funds away from municipally operated school districts, and place greater strain on the districts that serve 96% of public school children. Solving the charter school funding problem is a major priority for the MMA.

REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION, PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT), LIBRARY AID ACCOUNTS, METCO, McKINNEY-VENTO, AND SHANNON ANTI-GANG GRANTS
Compared to current fiscal 2017 appropriations, the Legislature’s fiscal 2018 budget increases Regional School Transportation Reimbursements by $1 million (up to $61.5 million), a very important account for smaller and rural communities. The budget would level-fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, add $188K to library grant programs, level-fund METCO, and fund McKinney-Vento reimbursements at $8.1 million, a reduction of $250K. The Legislature’s budget would level-fund Shannon Anti-Gang Grants at $6 million.

CONFERENCE COMMITTEE BUDGET DEFERS IMPORTANT IMPROVEMENTS TO THE LOCAL AND STATE LODGING EXCISE TAX TO SEPARATE LEGISLATION
The Legislature’s final budget defers action on important reforms to the room occupancy excise. Progress on this issue will now focus on separate legislation that is being crafted by Rep. Aaron Michlewitz in the House. The Senate budget had included language to close loopholes that allow the increasing variety of transient and other short-term rentals to escape taxation, including rentals through Airbnb and other similar online companies and through on-line re-sellers. These are important steps to bring parity and a level-playing field to the collection of lodging excise payments, and the MMA will continue to work hard to achieve passage this year.

Please Call Your Representatives and Senators Today to Say Thank You for the Local Aid Investments in the Legislature’s Budget – Including the $39.9 Million Increase in Unrestricted Local Aid and the $119 Million Increase in Chapter 70 School Aid

Thank You Very Much!

 

State budget status – expect less aid

This from the Massachusetts Municipal Association on the status of the state budget –

MMA-2

June 26, 2017
MMA

LEGISLATIVE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE still working on

FISCAL 2018 STATE BUDGET – LOCAL AID IS AT STAKE

DECLINING STATE TAX COLLECTIONS CLOUD BUDGET PICTURE, LEGISLATURE MAY REVISIT REVENUE ESTIMATE AND REDUCE FY 2018 SPENDING ACROSS THE BOARD
Please Call Today and Ask Your Legislators to:
• PROTECT UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID AS A TOP PRIORITY
• FUND CHAPTER 70 SCHOOL AID AT HIGHEST LEVEL
• FULLY FUND SPED CIRCUIT BREAKER
• INCREASE FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS
• BRING FAIRNESS TO THE LODGING EXCISE AND SHORT-TERM RENTALS
The House and Senate passed their own versions of next year’s fiscal 2018 state budget earlier this month, and the budget conference committee has been meeting to iron out the differences and present a balanced budget for adoption by the full legislature.

However, declining state tax collections have opened a gaping hole in the current fiscal 2017 budget, and state leaders are revisiting and lowering their revenue assumptions for next year – this could lead lawmakers to make across-the-board budget cuts in next year’s budget, including to unrestricted municipal aid (UGGA), education funding, and many other vital programs. This process is taking longer than expected, which is why lawmakers have passed a temporary one-month budget to keep state government operating through the end of July.

It is imperative that you contact your Representatives and Senators as soon as possible and ask them to protect local aid as a top priority – cities and towns have balanced their budgets based on receiving the full $39.9 million expected increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid, $30 per student in minimum aid for Chapter 70, and full funding of vital accounts, including special education reimbursements. Cuts to these local aid programs would create budget shortfalls for all 351 cities and towns, and force communities to re-open their budgets to impose mid-year program cuts.

Please call your legislators today and ask them to fully protect local aid

Please click here to download a copy of MMA’s letter to House and Senate leaders detailing local aid priorities in the fiscal 2018 state budget

UNRESTRICTED GENERAL GOVERNMENT AID (UGGA)
Please ask your legislators to make it a top priority to protect the full $39.9 million increase in the Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) account that was included in both the House and Senate budgets. It is important to note that the UGGA program is funded almost entirely by Lottery and gaming revenues, including $64 million from the Plainridge Park Casino. Most of the remaining amount would come from Lottery proceeds that the State Treasurer has forecast at $965 million next year. Almost all of the UGGA account is funded by gaming revenues that are supposed to go directly to cities and towns, and should not be diverted for other purposes.

CHAPTER 70 SCHOOL AID
Please ask your legislators to support an increase for Chapter 70 school aid that provides at least $30 per student in minimum aid, starts the implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations to increase the state’s funding commitment, and protects communities with low-income students.

SPECIAL EDUCATION “CIRCUIT BREAKER”
Please ask your legislators to support full funding of the Special Education “Circuit Breaker” Program, which would require $294.4 million, as proposed by the Senate.

CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS
Both the House and Senate budgets significantly underfund the charter school reimbursements. Fixing this program in an absolute priority, because a record level of Chapter 70 aid is being diverted away from cities and towns to fund charter schools, which only serve about 4% of the students. The Senate budget would increase funding by $3 million, while the House budget level-funds the program at $80.5 million. This $3 million increase is critically important to those communities that are struggling under the deeply flawed system. Please ask your legislators to keep this $3 million increase.

BRINGING FAIRNESS TO SHORT-TERM RENTALS AND TAX POLICY
The MMA is strongly supporting the Senate language that would modernize and close loopholes in the room occupancy excise, and provide cities and towns with authority to set local rules for the industry. New technologies and business practices have changed how people book and pay for vacations, business trips and other short-term stays away from home. The Senate provision would apply the same rules across all types of occupancy, and is a complete package in that it also closes the internet reseller loophole. Industry leader Airbnb has also endorsed the Senate provision, which demonstrates that this solution offers a strong foundation to fix this issue from both the municipal and business perspective. This is an urgent issue and we ask you to call your legislators to support this proposal to allow the local hotel-motel excise to cover these short-term and seasonal rentals.

PLEASE ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS TODAY TO PROTECT THE $39.9 MILLION INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID – THIS INCREASE IS VITAL TO LOCAL BUDGETS IN EVERY CORNER OF MASSACHUSETTS

AND PLEASE ASK YOUR LEGISLATORS TO FULLY FUND ALL KEY MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL PROGRAMS, AND CLOSE LOOPHOLES FOR SHORT-TERM RENTALS UNDER THE HOTEL-MOTEL LODGING EXCISE

THANK YOU!!

MMA on Senate’s budget

This was from the Massachusetts Municipal Association on the Senate’s version of the state budget –

MMA-2

SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE OFFERS $40.3B FY 2018 STATE BUDGET THAT MAKES KEY INVESTMENTS IN MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL AID
 • INCLUDES THE FULL $40M INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID (UGGA)

• INCREASES CHAPTER 70 TO $4.63B TO FUND MINIMUM AID AT $30 PER STUDENT

• CH. 70 INCLUDES $10M MORE THAN HOUSE FOR FOUNDATION BUDGET FUNDING

• ADDS $16.5M TO FULLY FUND SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER

• LEVEL-FUNDS MOST OTHER MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS

 

Earlier today, the Senate Ways & Means Committee reported out a lean $40.3 billion fiscal 2018 state budget plan to increase overall state expenditures by 3.3 percent.  The budget proposal makes key investments in municipal and education aid priorities.

S. 3, the Senate Ways and Means budget, includes the full $40 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid that the House and Governor have proposed.  Communities are counting on the full $40 million UGGA increase to balance their budgets and maintain essential services.

The Senate budget plan also increases Chapter 70 aid by $37.4 million above the Governor’s recommendation by increasing minimum aid from $20 per student to $30 per student, going farther in implementing the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations, and adding $12 million to hold districts harmless in the new calculation of the number of low-income students.  The House-passed budget also set minimum aid at $30 per student and includes the $12 million for low-income students.  After accounting for those changes, the Senate Ways & Means Committee’s budget provides $10 million more for Chapter 70 than the House, primarily by joining the House in increasing the calculation of employee health insurance costs, and then expanding on that by increasing the calculation of special-education-related costs.

In a major step forward for cities and towns, the Senate W&M Committee would add $16.5 million to fully fund the Special Education Circuit Breaker, an important priority for communities.

The full Senate will begin debating the fiscal 2018 state budget on Tuesday, May 23.

Please Click this Link Now to See the Chapter 70 and Unrestricted Municipal Aid Numbers for Your Community

Click this Link to See Your Community’s Local Aid and Preliminary Cherry Sheet Numbers in the Senate Ways & Means Budget, as Posted by the Division of Local Services

$40 MILLION INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID
In a major victory for cities and towns, the SW&M fiscal 2018 budget plan (S. 3) would provide $1.061 billion for UGGA, a $40 million increase over current funding – the same increase proposed by Governor Baker and voted by the House. Almost all of UGGA funding comes from $985M in expected Lottery proceeds and $65M from the Plainridge gaming facility. The full $40 million UGGA increase is a top priority for cities and towns, because municipalities are counting on these funds to balance their budgets and maintain essential services for their residents.

CHAPTER 70 MINIMUM AID WOULD INCREASE TO $30 PER STUDENT
The Senate budget committee is proposing a $128.8 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid (this is $37.4 million higher than the $91.4 million increase in House One), joining the House in supporting a minimum aid increase of at least $30 per student (compared to the $20-per-student amount in the Governor’s budget). The Senate budget would continue to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2007. Further, the Senate Ways & Means Committee proposal would build on the proposals by the House and Governor to start addressing shortfalls in the foundation budget framework. In addition to increasing the cost factors for employee health insurance, the Senate budget committee would increase the cost factors for special education, which accounts for why the Senate W&M Chapter 70 proposal is $10M higher than the House.

Both the Senate and House budgets would provide $12M to hold school districts harmless from changes in the method of counting low-income students. This is similar to the Legislature’s handling of the problem in the current fiscal 2017 budget.

In the context of a very tight budget year, the Senate budget committee’s increase in Chapter 70 funding is certainly welcome progress. The MMA continues to give top priority to full funding for the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations, and over the long-term will work to build on this increase.

$16.5 MILLION INCREASE INTENDED TO FULLY FUND SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER
In another important budget priority for cities and towns, Senate leaders have announced that they support full funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program. The Senate budget plan would provide $293.7 million, a $16.5 million increase above fiscal 2017 budget and the Governor’s recommendation for fiscal 2018 (he proposed level-funding). The House added $4 million during its deliberations, and the SW&M proposal goes all the way to full funding. Every city, town and school district relies on the circuit-breaker program to fund state-mandated special education services.

FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS REMAINS FLAT
The SW&M budget would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $80.5 million, far below the amount necessary to fully fund the statutory formula that was originally established to offset a portion of the funding that communities are required to transfer to charter schools. The fiscal 2017 funding level is $54.6 million below what is necessary to fund the reimbursement formula that is written into state law. If this program is level funded, the shortfall will grow to an estimated $76.4 million in fiscal 2018. This would lead to the continued and growing diversion of Chapter 70 funds away from municipally operated school districts, and place greater strain on the districts that serve 96% of public school children. Solving the charter school funding problem must be a major priority during the budget debate.

REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION, PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT), LIBRARY AID ACCOUNTS, METCO, McKINNEY-VENTO, AND SHANNON ANTI-GANG GRANTS
Compared to current fiscal 2017 appropriations, the Senate budget committee’s proposal would level-fund Regional School Transportation Reimbursements at $60.1M, level-fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, add $1.25M to library grant programs, add $357K to METCO, and level-fund McKinney-Vento reimbursements at $8.35 million. However, the SW&M budget would reduce Shannon Anti-Gang Grants to $5 million, a $1 million reduction.

SENATE BUDGET PLAN INCLUDES IMPORTANT IMPROVEMENTS TO THE LOCAL AND STATE LODGING EXCISE TAX
The SW&M budget would make several long-sought improvements to close loopholes in the collection of the local and state lodging excise tax. First, the Senate budget proposes language to end the “internet reseller” loophole that allows Expedia and other internet resellers to avoid payment of the full hotel-motel tax. Second, the Senate budget closes the loophole for transient accommodations, including short-term seasonal rentals. Third, the Senate plan would begin to close the Airbnb loophole. These are important steps to bring parity and a level-playing field to the collection of lodging excise payments.

Please Call Your Senators Today to Thank Them for the Local Aid Investments in the Senate Ways and Means Committee Budget – Including the $40 Million Increase in Unrestricted Local Aid, Providing Chapter 70 Minimum Aid at $30 Per Student, and Fully Funding to the Special Education Circuit Breaker

Please Explain How the Senate Ways and Means Budget Impacts Your Community, and Ask Your Senators to Build on this Progress During Budget Debate in the Senate

Thank You!

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State aid for FY18, so far

20170411-state aid

State budget – step 2 (i.e. the House version)

This notice this afternoon from the Massachusetts Municipal Association about the House version of the proposed state budget. The state budget goes through the following steps each year:

  • The Governor starts the budget process with his budget proposal at the end of January,
  • the House then does its version,
  • the Senate then does its own version,
  • then the House and Senate work out the final version via a reconciliation committee,
  • the Governor can veto items, and
  • the legislature can pass what it wants over those vetos, if it has enough votes.

Our local aid monies seem to have been mainly protected in the House version of the state budget.

MMA-2

 
 
April 10, 2017
HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE OFFERS $40.3B FY 2018 STATE BUDGET THAT MAKES KEY INVESTMENTS IN MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL AID

• INCLUDES THE FULL $40M INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID (UGGA)

• INCREASES CHAPTER 70 BY $106M TO FUND MINIMUM AID AT $30 PER STUDENT

• ADDS $4M TO THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER

• ADDS $1M MORE FOR REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION

• LEVEL-FUNDS MOST OTHER MUNICIPAL AND SCHOOL ACCOUNTS

Earlier this afternoon, the House Ways & Means Committee reported out a lean $40.3 billion fiscal 2018 state budget plan to increase overall state expenditures by 3.8 percent. The House Ways and Means budget is $180 million smaller than the budget filed by the Governor in January, yet it also increases Chapter 70 aid by $15 million above the Governor’s recommendation by increasing minimum aid from $20 per student to $30 per student. The full House will debate the fiscal 2018 state budget during the week of April 24.

H. 3600, the House Ways and Means budget, provides strong progress on many important local aid priorities, including the full $40 million increase in Unrestricted General Government Aid that the Governor proposed and communities are counting on. The House W&M Committee would increase funding for other major aid programs, by adding $4 million to the Special Education Circuit Breaker, adding $1 million to Regional School Transportation, and increasing Chapter 70 minimum aid to $30 per student.

Please Click this Link Now to See the Chapter 70 and Unrestricted Municipal Aid Numbers for Your Community

Later Today or Early Tomorrow – Click on this Link to See Your Community’s Local Aid and Preliminary Cherry Sheet Numbers in the House Ways & Means Budget, as Posted by the Division of Local Services

$40 MILLION INCREASE IN UNRESTRICTED MUNICIPAL AID
In a major victory for cities and towns, the HW&M fiscal 2018 budget plan (H. 3600) would provide $1.061 billion for UGGA, a $40 million increase over current funding – the same increase proposed by Governor Baker. The $40 million would increase UGGA funding by 3.9 percent, which matches the projected growth in state tax collections next year. This would be the second-largest increase in discretionary municipal aid in nearly a decade. Every city and town would see their UGGA funding increase by 3.9 percent.

CHAPTER 70 MINIMUM AID WOULD INCREASE TO $30 PER STUDENT
The House budget committee is proposing a $106.4 million increase in Chapter 70 education aid (this is $15 million higher than the $91.4 million increase in House One), with a provision that every city, town and school district receive an increase of at least $30 per student (compared to the $20-per-student amount in the Governor’s budget). The House budget would continue to implement the target share provisions enacted in 2007. Further, the House Ways & Means Committee proposal would build on the Governor’s initial proposal to start addressing shortfalls in the foundation budget framework, by increasing the cost factors for employee health insurance.

In the context of a very tight budget year, the House budget committee’s increase in Chapter 70 funding is certainly welcome progress over the House One proposal that was filed in January. The MMA continues to give top priority to full funding for the Foundation Budget Review Commission’s recommendations, and over the long-term will work to build on this increase.

$4 MILLION INCREASE INTENDED TO FULLY FUND SPECIAL EDUCATION CIRCUIT BREAKER
In another budget advancement for cities and towns, House leaders have announced that they support increased funding for the Special Education Circuit Breaker program. The House budget plan would provide $281 million, a $4 million increase above fiscal 2017, although this is still short of full funding for a vital program that every city, town and school district relies on to fund state-mandated services. The MMA will work to continue building on this welcome increase.

ADDS $1 MILLION TO REGIONAL SCHOOL TRANSPORTATION
House Ways and Means Committee budget would add $1 million to bring regional transportation reimbursements up to $62 million. The MMA will work to continue building on this welcome increase.

FUNDING FOR CHARTER SCHOOL REIMBURSEMENTS REMAINS FLAT
Both budgets filed by the Governor and the House Ways & Means Committee would level-fund charter school reimbursements at $80.5­ million, far below the amount necessary to fully fund the statutory formula that was originally established to offset a portion of the funding that communities are required to transfer to charter schools. The fiscal 2017 funding level is $54 million below what is necessary to fund the reimbursement formula that is written into state law. If this program is level funded, the shortfall will grow to an estimated $67.1 million in fiscal 2018. This would lead to the continued and growing diversion of Chapter 70 funds away from municipally operated school districts, and place greater strain on the districts that serve 96% of public school children. Solving the charter school funding problem must be a major priority during the budget debate.

PAYMENTS-IN-LIEU-OF-TAXES (PILOT), LIBRARY AID ACCOUNTS, METCO, McKINNEY-VENTO, AND SHANNON ANTI-GANG GRANTS
The House budget committee’s proposal would level-fund PILOT payments at $26.77 million, add $600K to library grant programs, add $500K to METCO, and level-fund McKinney-Vento reimbursements at $8.35 million. However, the HW&M budget would reduce Shannon Anti-Gang Grants to $5 million, a $1 million reduction.

Please Call Your Representatives Today to Thank Them for the Local Aid Investments in the House Ways and Means Committee Budget – Including the $40 Million Increase in Unrestricted Local Aid, Providing Chapter 70 Minimum Aid at $30 Per Student, and Adding Funding to the Special Education Circuit Breaker and Regional School Transportation

Please Explain How the House Ways and Means Budget Impacts Your Community, and Ask Your Representatives to Build on this Progress During Budget Debate in the House

Thank You!