July 13, 2024

Senate passes version of FY2025 state budget

Posted

The $57.999 billion budget was approved unanimously following three days of robust, bipartisan debate.

BOSTON — The Massachusetts Senate has unanimously approved a $57.999 billion budget for Fiscal Year 2025 (FY25). Following robust and spirited debate, the Senate adopted over 400 amendments and took 43 roll call votes, adding $89.6 million in spending for statewide initiatives and local priorities for communities around the Commonwealth.

The budget builds on the Senate’s commitment to fiscal responsibility while delivering historic levels of investment in every level of education, regional equity, and mental health, reflecting the Chamber’s commitment to creating a more affordable, equitable, and competitive Commonwealth.

“This budget provides the investment into the Commonwealth’s resources and services, like infrastructure and education, that our communities rely on day in and day out — without raising taxes,” said Dean of the Massachusetts Senate Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton). “This budget also includes funding for projects that will enhance quality-of-life for stakeholders in the 3rd Bristol and Plymouth district and beyond.”

The Committee on Ways and Means’ budget recommends a total of $58 billion in spending, a $1.8 billion increase over the Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) General Appropriations Act (GAA). This spending recommendation is based on a tax revenue estimate of $41.5 billion for FY25, which is $208 million less than revenues assumed in the FY24 GAA. This represents nearly flat growth, as agreed upon during the Consensus Revenue process in January, plus $1.3 billion in revenue generated from the Fair Share surtax.

As the Commonwealth adjusts to a changing economic landscape and ongoing tax revenue volatility, the FY25 budget adheres to disciplined and responsible fiscal stewardship. It does not raise taxes, nor does it draw down available reserves from the Stabilization Fund or the Transitional Escrow Fund, while at the same time judicially utilizing one-time resources to maintain balance.

The Senate’s budget continues responsible and sustainable planning for the future by continuing to grow the Rainy-Day Fund, already at a historic high of over $8 billion. The Senate’s proposal would build the Commonwealth’s reserves to a healthy balance in excess of $9 billion at the close of FY25.
Education

The Senate Ways and Means FY25 budget proposal implements the Senate’s Student Opportunity Plan by shaping policies to make high-quality education more accessible and by making significant investments in the education system, from our youngest learners to adults re-entering the higher education system.

One amendment Senator Pacheco sponsored calls for the creation of a commission that will be responsible for a report submitted to the legislature by January 1, 2025 examine declining enrollment at the University of Massachusetts system. The report will include recommendations for short- and long-term solutions and best practices to increase each campus’ enrollment numbers and reverse these trends.

“We know that, across education, decades of declining birthrates in Massachusetts and the country have shrunk the college-age population and led to a drop in college enrollments in recent decades,” said Senator Pacheco. “To make up for that lost revenue from declining enrollment, the system must innovate its offerings to give more students the opportunity to take advantage of the high-quality education these institutions offer.”

Recognizing that investing in our early education and care system directly supports the underlying economic competitiveness of the Commonwealth, the Senate’s budget makes a $1.58 billion investment in early education and care. The FY25 budget will maintain operational support for providers, support the early education and care workforce, and prioritize accessibility and affordability throughout our early education and care system. Notable funding includes:
• $475 million for a full year of operational grants the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) Grant program, this is the second fiscal year in a row that a full year of C3 grants have been funded using state dollars in the annual state budget. The Committee’s budget also makes the C3 program permanent, while also adding provisions to direct more funds from the C3 program to early education and programs that serve children receiving childcare subsidies from the state and youth with high needs. Currently, more than 92 percent of early education and care programs in the Commonwealth receive these grants. This program, which has become a model nationwide, has proven successful at increasing the salaries of early educators, reducing tuition costs for families, and expanding the number of available childcare slots beyond pre-pandemic capacity.
• $80 million for childcare affordability, creating more than 4,000 new subsidized childcare seats and expanding eligibility for subsidized childcare to families making 85 percent of the state median income.
• $65 million for center-based childcare reimbursement rates for subsidized care, including $20 million for a new reimbursement rate increase.
• $53.6 million for quality improvement initiatives at early education and care providers, with $6 million supporting the Summer Step Up program.
• $32.5 million for the Commonwealth Preschool Partnership Initiative, which empowers school districts to expand prekindergarten and preschool opportunities through public-private partnerships. This is double the amount that was appropriated for this initiative in FY23.
• $20 million for Childcare Resource and Referral Centers to assist parents, childcare providers, employers, and community groups in navigating the state’s early education and care landscape.
• $18.5 million for grants to Head Start programs, which provide crucial early education and childcare services to low-income families.
• $5 million for grants to early education and care providers for childhood mental health consultation services.
• $2.5 million for a new public-private matching pilot program to encourage employers to create and support new childcare slots, with an emphasis on serving children most in need.

Building off the Senate’s unanimous passage of the comprehensive EARLY ED Act in March, the Committee’s FY25 budget codifies several provisions of the bill, transforming the early education sector by improving affordability and access for families, increasing pay for early educators, and ensuring the sustainability and quality of early education and care programs.

In K-12 education, the Senate follows through on the commitment to fully fund and implement the Student Opportunity Act (SOA) by Fiscal Year 2027, investing $6.9 billion in Chapter 70 funding, an increase of $319 million over FY24, as well as increasing minimum Chapter 70 aid from $30 to $110 per pupil, delivering an additional $40 million in resources to school districts across the state. With these investments, the Senate continues to provide crucial support to school districts confronting the increasing cost pressures that come with delivering high-quality education to all students.

In addition to the record levels of investment in early education and K–12, the Committee’s budget removes barriers to accessing public higher education by codifying into law MassEducate, a $117.5 million investment in a universal free community college program that covers tuition and fees for residents, aimed at supporting economic opportunity, workforce development, and opening the door to higher education for people who may never have had access. The FY25 budget permanently enshrines free community college into law in an affordable, sustainable, and prudent manner across the Commonwealth, while leaving no federal dollars on the table.

Other education investments include:
• $492.2 million for the special education circuit breaker.
• $198.9 million for charter school reimbursements.
• $99.4 million to reimburse school districts for regional school transportation costs.
• $28.3 million for higher education wraparound services, including $18.3 million in General Fund resources, to support wraparound support for the influx of new students coming to community college campuses because of MassEducate. During debate, the Senate added an amendment to fund $500,000 for the Hunger Free Initiative.
• $17.5 million for rural school aid.
• $15 million for Early College programs and $1 million for the state’s Dual Enrollment initiative, both of which provide high school students with increased opportunities for post-graduate success.
• $5 million to support continued implementation of the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Higher Education law, including $3 million for grants offered through the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment initiative to help high school students with intellectual disabilities ages 18–22 access higher education opportunities; and $2 million for the Massachusetts Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Trust Fund.
• $3 million for the Genocide Education Trust Fund, continuing our commitment to educate middle and high school students on the history of genocide.
• $1 million for Hate Crimes Prevention Grants to support education and prevention of hate crimes and incidences of bias in public schools.
Students attending schools and school districts serving the communities of the 3rd Bristol and Plymouth District received over $235 million in Chapter 70 funding.

“Investments in education, including through Chapter 70 funding, will allow Massachusetts students to take advantage of a better equipped and more accessible school system,” said Senator Pacheco. “Funding in this overall budget will not just go to our young students, but also to supporting those in the workforce by boosting their access to higher education and workforce training opportunities.”
FY25 Chapter 70 funding
Communities
BERKLEY $4,222,848
CARVER $10,619,393
DIGHTON $8,253
MARION $1,195,102
MIDDLEBOROUGH $22,651,805
SEEKONK $7,970,778
TAUNTON $94,965,614
WAREHAM $16,460,830
Regional school districts
BRIDGEWATER RAYNHAM $31,528,709
BRISTOL COUNTY $5,148,716
BRISTOL PLYMOUTH $14,460,069
DIGHTON REHOBOTH $13,618,578
SOMERSET BERKLEY $7,069,701

Total area of Chapter 70 funding $229,920,398

Community Support
The Committee’s budget—in addition to funding traditional accounts like Chapter 70 education aid—further demonstrates the Senate’s commitment to partnerships between the state and municipalities, dedicating meaningful resources that touch all regions and meet the needs of communities across the Commonwealth. This includes $1.3 billion in funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA), an increase of $38 million over FY24, to support additional resources for cities and towns.
Senator Pacheco secured more than $23.8 million in UGGA funding for the cities and towns of the 3rd Bristol-Plymouth District.
Communities Unrestricted General Government Aid
BERKLEY $749,194
CARVER $1,798,774
DIGHTON $952,104
MARION $277,832
MIDDLEBOROUGH $3,035,815
RAYNHAM $1,400,176
REHOBOTH $1,283,550
SEEKONK $1,515,221
TAUNTON $10,356,565
WAREHAM $2,436,234

Unrestricted General Government Aid funding $23,805,465
“Unrestricted General Government Aid funding allows our local municipalities to invest resources into their communities and the people that live there,” said Senator Pacheco. “Putting these funds into the hands of municipal leaders allows them to best decide what programs and projects should be invested in to improve the lives of their residents.”

Senator Pacheco also secured $500,000 that will be used for restoring and replacing the iconic copper flame sculpture that sat atop the historic Bristol County Superior Court House in downtown Taunton, which was removed in 2003 due to safety concerns.

“This funding is necessary for the restoration of the Bristol County Superior Court House building,” said Senator Pacheco. “For more than 20 years, this courthouse has been without what was once an iconic symbol of downtown Taunton.”

Senator Pacheco also secured $250,000 for Bristol County Superior Court House in Taunton to use on renewable and sustainable initiatives at the 130-year-old courthouse building.

In addition to traditional sources of local aid, the Committee’s budget increases payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) for state-owned land to $53 million, an increase of $1.5 million over FY24. PILOT funding is an additional source of supplemental local aid for cities and towns working to protect and improve access to essential services and programs during recovery from the pandemic. Other local investments include:
• $214 million for Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) to support regional public transportation systems, including $120 million from Fair Share funds to support our RTAs that help to connect all regions of our Commonwealth.
• $51.3 million for libraries, including $19 million for regional library local aid, $20 million for municipal libraries, and $6.2 million for technology and automated resource networks.
• $25.6 million for the Massachusetts Cultural Council to support local arts, culture, and creative economic initiatives.

Health, mental health, and family care

The Senate budget funds MassHealth at a total of $20.33 billion, providing more than two million people with continued access to affordable, accessible, and comprehensive health care services. Other health investments include:
• $3 billion for a range of services and focused supports for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
• Nearly $2 billion to protect and deliver a wide range of mental health services and programs, including $622.3 million for Department of Mental Health adult support services, including assisted outpatient programming and comprehensive care coordination among health care providers.
• $582.1 million for nursing facility Medicaid rates, including $112 million in additional base rate payments to maintain competitive wages in the Commonwealth’s nursing facility workforce.
• $390 million for Chapter 257 rates to support direct-care providers across the continuum of care.
• $198.9 million for a complete range of substance use disorder treatment and intervention services to support these individuals and their families.
• $131 million for children’s mental health services.
• $113 million for the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) program to prevent service reductions and maintain accessible eligibility thresholds.
• $75.8 million for domestic violence prevention services.
• $30.9 million for early intervention services, ensuring supports remain accessible and available to infants and young toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities.
• $33.8 million for Family Resource Centers to grow and improve the mental health resources and programming available to families.
• $28.5 million for grants to local Councils on Aging to increase assistance per elder to $15 from $14 in FY 2024.
• $26.7 million for student behavioral health services across the University of Massachusetts, state universities, community colleges, K–12 schools, and early education centers.
• $25 million for emergency department diversion initiatives for children, adolescents, and adults.
• $25.1 million for family and adolescent health, including $9.2 million for comprehensive family planning services and $6.7 million to enhance federal Title X family planning funding.
• $20 million to recapitalize the Behavioral Health, Access, Outreach, and Support Trust Fund to support targeted behavioral health initiatives.
• $14.2 million for suicide prevention and intervention, with an additional $1.4 million for Samaritans Inc. and $1.1 million for the Call-2-Talk suicide prevention hotline. This investment will fully fund 988, the 24/7 suicide and crisis lifeline.
• $14.5 million for maternal and child health, including $10.4 million for pediatric palliative care services for terminally ill children, and a policy adjustment to ensure that children up to age 22 can continue to be served through the program.
• $12.5 million for grants to support local and regional boards of health, continuing our efforts to build upon the successful State Action for Public Health Excellence (SAPHE) Program.
• $6 million for Social Emotional Learning Grants to help K-12 schools continue to bolster social emotional learning supports for students, including $1 million to provide mental health screenings for K-12 students.
• $5.5 million for Children Advocacy Centers to improve the critical supports available to children that have been neglected or sexually abused.
• $3.9 million for the Office of the Child Advocate.
• $3.75 million for the Massachusetts Center on Child Wellbeing and Trauma.
• $2 million for grants for improvements in reproductive health access, infrastructure, and safety.
In addition, an amendment sponsored by Senator Pacheco calling for a study on the impact of extreme heat and other climate events on vulnerable populations, like over-65 adults and people with disabilities, was adopted into the Senate FY25 budget.

“The study called for in this amendment is essential to addressing the consequences climate change will have on our most vulnerable populations,” said Senator Pacheco. “Here in the Commonwealth, we must recognize that those who will be most affected by the impacts of extreme weather have been, and will be, those in our most vulnerable communities.”

Senator Pacheco also co-sponsored an amendment to the Senate version of the FY25 budget that calls for a Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection study into the creation of a statewide program to ensure clean drinking water for residents relying on private wells.

“No matter what source our residents in the Commonwealth are getting their drinking water from, that water needs to be safe,” said Senator Pacheco. “This study allows us to find out how to best support and protect the health of those who rely on private wells for their drinking water.”

Expanding and protecting opportunities

The Senate remains committed to continuing an equitable recovery, expanding opportunity, and supporting the state’s long-term economic health. To that end, the Senate’s budget increases the annual child’s clothing allowance, providing a historic $500 per child for eligible families to buy clothes for the upcoming school year. The budget also includes a 10 percent increase in Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC) benefit levels compared to June 2024 to help families move out of deep poverty.

In addition, the budget provides $87 million in critical funding to support a host of food security initiatives, including $42 million for Emergency Food Assistance to assist residents in navigating the historical levels of food insecurity and $20 million for the Health Incentives Program (HIP) to ensure full operation of the program to maintain access to healthy food options for SNAP households.
Economic opportunity investments include:
• $499.7 million for Transitional Assistance to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and $179 million for Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC) to provide the necessary support as caseloads increase and continue the deep poverty increase.
• $59.7 million for adult basic education services to improve access to skills necessary to join the workforce.
• $42 million for the Massachusetts Emergency Food Assistance Program.
• $20 million in Healthy Incentives Programs to maintain access to healthy food options for households in need.
• $15.5 million for the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program.
• $10.4 million for Career Technical Institutes to increase our skilled worker population and provide residents access to career technical training opportunities, which will combine with $12.3 million in remaining American Rescue Plan funding for the program.
• $10 million for the Food Security Infrastructure Grant program.
• $10 million for a Community Empowerment and Reinvestment Grant Program to provide economic support to communities disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system.
• $5.4 million for the Innovation Pathways program to continue to connect students to trainings and post-secondary opportunities in the industry sector, with a focus on STEM fields.
• $5 million for the Workforce Competitiveness Trust Fund, which will pair with $12.8 million in remaining American Rescue Plan funding for the program.
• $5 million for the Secure Jobs Connect Program, providing job placement resources and assistance for homeless individuals.
• $2.5 million for the Massachusetts Cybersecurity Innovation Fund, including $1.5 million to further partnerships with community colleges and state universities to provide cybersecurity workforce training to students and cybersecurity services to municipalities, non-profits, and small businesses.
Housing

As the Senate moves forward to shape a more fiscally sustainable path for the Commonwealth, affordable housing opportunities remain out of reach for too many. Longstanding housing challenges are being exacerbated by the influx of individuals and families migrating to Massachusetts and a lack of federal financial assistance and immigration reform. To that end, the Committee’s budget invests $1.14 billion in housing, dedicating resources for housing stability, residential assistance, emergency shelter services, and homelessness assistance programs, ensuring the state deploys a humane, responsible, and sustainable approach to providing families and individuals in need with an access point to secure housing.

The budget prioritizes relief for families and individuals who continue to face challenges brought on by the pandemic and financial insecurity, including $325.3 million for Emergency Assistance Family Shelters, in addition to the $175 million in resources passed in the recent supplemental budget to place the Commonwealth’s shelter system on a fiscal glidepath into FY25, in addition to $197.4 million for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT).

Other housing investments include:
• $231.5 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), including $12.5 million in funds carried forward from FY24.
• $115 million for assistance to local housing authorities.
• $110.8 million for assistance for homeless individuals.
• $57.3 million for the HomeBASE diversion and rapid re-housing programs.
• $27 million for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP), including $10.7 million in funds carried forward from FY24, to provide rental assistance to people with disabilities.
• $10.5 million for assistance for unaccompanied homeless youth.
• $9 million for the Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs).
• $8.9 million for sponsored-based supportive permanent housing.
• $8.9 million for the Home and Healthy for Good re-housing and supportive services program, including funding to support homeless LGBTQ youth.

“A multifaceted investment in housing in our Commonwealth is critical to combating the well-documented and ongoing issues around the high cost and low availability of housing,” said Senator Pacheco.
Senator Pacheco also co-sponsored budget amendments to increase funding for veteran’s support services by nearly $3.7 million in the Senate version of the FY25 state budget.

“Investments in supporting these programs will allow the Commonwealth to look after the needs of organizations and programs that allow Massachusetts veterans to live happier and healthier lives,” said Senator Pacheco. “It was an honor to co-sign these amendments providing support to organizations and programs that seek to provide resources for our veterans and their families, especially in regard to their housing and mental and physical wellbeing.”
Fair Share Investments

Consistent with the consensus revenue agreement reached with the Administration and House of Representatives in January, the Senate’s FY25 budget includes $1.3 billion in revenues generated from the Fair Share surtax of 4 percent on annual income above $1 million. As FY25 represents the second year where this source of revenue is available, the Committee’s budget invests these Fair Share revenues into an array of important initiatives to further strengthen our state’s economy by expanding access to quality public education and improving the state’s transportation infrastructure.

Notable Fair Share education investments include:
• $170 million for Universal School Meals.
• $150 million for the Commonwealth Cares for Children (C3) program to provide monthly grants to early education and care programs, which is matched with $325 million in funds from the General Fund and the High-Quality Early Education and Care Affordability Fund for a total investment of $475 million.
• $117.5 million for MassEducate to provide free community college across the Commonwealth.
• $105 million to expand financial aid programs for in-state students attending state universities through MASSGrant Plus, which is in addition to the $175.2 million for scholarships funded through the General Fund.
• $80 million for childcare affordability, creating more than 4,000 new subsidized childcare seats and expanding access to subsidized childcare to families making 85 percent of the state median income.
• $65 million for early education and care provider rate increases to increase salaries for our early educators.
• $15 million for the CPPI Pre-K Initiative, matching $17.5 million in funds from the General Fund, for a total of $32.5 million to support the expansion of universal prekindergarten, including in Gateway Cities.
• $10 million for wraparound support to boost community college and state university student persistence, which is matched with the $18 million in Success funds from the General Fund, for a total of $28 million.
• $10 million for early literacy initiatives.
• $7.5 million for school-based mental health supports and wraparound services.
• $5 million for Early College and Innovation Pathways.
Notable Fair Share transportation investments include:
• $250 million for the Commonwealth Transportation Fund (CTF), which will leverage the additional borrowing capacity of the CTF and increase investments in transportation infrastructure by $1.1 billion over the next 5 years. This $250 million includes:
o $127 million to double operating support for the MBTA.
• $63 million in debt service to leverage additional borrowing capacity.
• $60 million in operating support for MassDOT.
• $125 million for Roads and Bridges Supplemental Aid for cities and towns, including $62.5 million for local road funds through a formula that recognizes the unique transportation issues faced by rural communities.
• $120 million for Regional Transit Funding and Grants to support the work of Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs) that serve the Commonwealth, which together with General Fund spending funds RTAs at a record $214 million. Fair Share funding includes:
o $66 million in direct operating support for the Regional Transit Authorities.
• $40 million for systemwide implementation of fare-free transit service.
• $10 million to incentivize connections between regional transit routes.
• $4 million to support expanded mobility options for the elderly and people with disabilities.
• $24.5 million for commuter rail capital improvements.
• $23 million to support the implementation of a low-income fare relief program at the MBTA.
• $15 million for municipal small bridges and culverts.
• $7.5 million for water transportation, funding operational assistance for ferry services.

The final FY25 Senate budget will be available on the Senate budget website.
A conference committee will now be appointed to reconcile differences between the versions of the budget passed by the Senate and House of Representatives.


Comments

No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Share!
Truly local news delivered to every home in town