Passage of a budget for FY14 was complicated by action taken on a $1.9 billion transportation bill filed by Gov. Deval Patrick to fund transportation projects and increase funding for education. Lawmakers rejected Patrick’s $1.9 billion request for new taxes and sent back a bill with $500 million in new taxes including a 3-cent hike in the gas tax. Patrick subsequently vetoed the bill admonishing lawmakers that if the tolls in the western Massachusetts come down in 2017 when the bonds for the Mass Turnpike are paid off, there would be a loss of over $100 million in revenue. Lawmakers were not swayed and voted to override his veto by wide margins in the House and Senate.
In early July, following action on the transportation bill, lawmakers sent Patrick a $34 billion budget for FY14. The governor vetoed $240 million in transportation accounts and $177 million in local aid, claiming the budget would not be balanced. Local officials reacted with anger to massive reduction in local budgets for cities and towns and urged legislators to override the governor’s vetoes. Subsequently, legislators voted to override the governor’s vetoes restoring the budget to its original form.
- Increases funding for the University of Massachusetts to $478.9 million in exchange for a freeze on tuition and fees.
- Increases unrestricted local aid by $21.2 million sending $902.2 million to cities and towns
- Provides a $38 million increase for rates paid to Massachusetts hospitals who treat large numbers of Medicaid patients by boosting reimbursements from Medicaid and gambling revenues.
- Requires photo IDs to be used on electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards for those age 18 or older.
- Approves $30,000 pay raises for judges over FY14 and FY15. This is the first pay raise approved since 2006.
- Increases funding for elder care home services by $6.2 million, bringing total funding for FY14 to $182 million.
Session highlights … so far …
The Massachusetts Legislature is in session until Dec. 31, 2013. But already, state legislation has:
- Funded an $800 million transportation finance bill which provides for a 3-cent increase in the gas tax, a $1-per-pack increase in the cigarette tax and a broad tax on computer services. The bill is purported to avoid fare hikes on the MBTA while providing additional funding for regional bus services and other transportation upgrades. Some lawmakers expressed concern that the tax on computer services would drive businesses out of the state.
- Repealing the tax on computer services or the “tech tax” is likely. State officials have now delayed collection of the tax, which was passed as part of the transportation finance bill. In response to business concerns, legislative leaders and the governor now admit the tax was ill advised
- Raised the age of jurisdiction for juvenile offenders to 18 years. This will allow 17-year-olds to be processed in juvenile court, rather than the adult courts. However 17-year-olds on trial for serious crimes, e.g. murder, would still be tried in adult courts.
From FY2002 to FY2013, state appropriations for all sectors of the Massachusetts public higher education system declined by 25%. Consequently, institutions raised tuition and fees.
In the FY14 budget, approximately $100 million in additional funding was approved for the University of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts State Universities and the Community Colleges. More specifically,
- Funding for the University of Massachusetts increased by $40 million bringing FY14 funding to $497 million. In exchange, tuition and fees will be frozen.
- Funding for the State Universities increased by $29 million bringing funding for FY14 to $232.8 million.
- Funding for the Community Colleges increased by $32.4 million.
The Massachusetts State Scholarship Program, which includes MASSGrant (need-based financial aid), will increase by $3 million or 3% over FY13.
Funding for Chapter 70 (education aid to cities and towns) increased by approximately 3% or $4.3s billion.
The budget provides $1 million for Innovation Schools. This would fund competitive grants for school districts who are planning or in the process of implementing innovative programs.
The budget also provides approximately $500 million for early education and child care programs. Most of the funding is allocated to TANF-Related Child Care, the Department of Children and Families and Income Eligible Child Care.
Carolyn Morwick handles government and community relations at NEBHE and is former director of the Caucus of New England State Legislatures.
NE’s 2013 Legislative Sessions: New Hampshire
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