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Analyzing the House FY 2017 Budget

April 29, 2016
Analyzing-the-House-Budget-for-FY-2017

On Wednesday the House completed debate on our state budget, setting forth its funding recommendations for those things that we do and fund through our government, including: educating our children; providing local services; maintaining our roads, bridges and transit systems; keeping our air and water clean; protecting public health; supporting work by providing job training and child care support; and helping those facing hard times. In three days of debate, the House changed the bottom line of the budget proposed by the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee by less than one fifth of one percent. Overall, the House added about $90 million in new spending, partially offset by a $31.2 million reduction in funding for the state’s Group Insurance Commission that reflects new, and lower, estimates of enrollment.

While many of the changes approved by the House were small earmarks for specific projects, a few more significant proposals were adopted, including an additional $5 million to provide more adequate compensation for low-paid early childhood educators. This doubles the $5 million proposed by the Ways and Means Committee for this purpose. Several of the larger increases approved by the House are not actually increases over current spending, but rather just restore – or partially restore – funding that the Ways and Means Committee had proposed cutting. For example, the House adopted amendments that:

  • Add $6.9 million to the amount recommended by HWM for the Employment Services Program that supports employment and training programs for TAFDC clients. Including this increase the House budget proposes $11.9 million which is less than the current funding level of $13 million.
  • Add $1.0 million to the amount recommended by HWM for the Shannon Grant program that helps fund anti-gang and youth violence prevention efforts undertaken by law enforcement, community-based organizations, and government agencies in communities throughout the Commonwealth. Including this increase the House Budget proposes $6.0 million, $1 million below the current funding level of $7.0 million.
  • Add $7.1 million to the amount recommended by HWM for the Office of Travel and Tourism. Including this increase the House proposes $11.5 million which is less than the current funding level of $13.8 million.

This Budget Monitor describes the amendments adopted in each major section of the state budget and offers comparisons to current and historic funding levels and the Governor’s proposals for this year.

Early Education & Care

During budget debate, the House adopted several amendments to the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee FY 2017 budget that propose to increase funding for early education and care. Collectively, these amendments would result in $8.0 million (1.4 percent) more funding for early education compared to the HWM Committee budget. One amendment provides funding for a small initiative that the HWM Committee budget had proposed eliminating. Follow the links below to MassBudget’s Children Budget for detailed descriptions of specific programs.

In particular, during debate, the House proposed increasing funding for:

For full detail on amendments that the House made during debate, see the table below.


Table: Early education line items amended by the house

During debate, no additional funding was added to the HWM Committee’s proposal for any other early education and care items. For these programs, MassBudget’s description of early education programs in our HWM Committee Budget Monitor HERE outlines the funding proposed in the final House budget for FY 2017.

Overall, the House budget would provide $11.2 million (2.0 percent) more for early education than current FY 2016 levels, and $6.7 million (1.2 percent) more than the Governor’s proposal. Because many of the initiatives proposed for FY 2017 are focused on improving the quality of existing programs, this increase would be unlikely to expand services for the 24,500 kids that are currently on the waitlist for Department of Early Education and Care services.

K-12 Education

During House floor debate on the FY 2017 budget, K-12 education grants, and programs received $7.0 million in additional proposed funding, 1.1 percent above the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee’s budget. This includes funding for some small initiatives that the HWM Committee budget had proposed eliminating. Follow the links below to MassBudget’s Children’s Budget and Jobs & Workforce Budget, for detailed descriptions of specific programs.

Several of the larger amendments to K-12 education line items adopted by the House increased funding for:

  • School to Career Connecting Activities by $2.0 million. This brings the total for this program to $3.0 million, which is roughly level with current FY 2016 spending and is $2.5 million less than the Governor’s FY 2017 proposal.
  • Statewide oversight of schools and districts through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by $1.3 million.
  • After-School and Out-of-School Grants by $795,000.

The House also added outside sections that would create special commissions to explore how to better provide transportation for homeless students and services for kids with severe disabilities.

For full details on K-12 grants and programs that received increased funding during House floor debate, see the table below.


Table: K-12 education line items amended by the house

During debate, no additional funding was added to the HWM Committee’s proposal for any other K-12 education items, including Chapter 70 Education Aid and Chapter 70 Reserves. For information on those areas, see MassBudget’s description of education programs in our HWM Committee Budget Monitor HERE.

Higher Education

During debate on the FY 2017 budget, the House approved several amendments to the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee budget to increase funding for higher education. This included creating some new initiatives and providing funding for some small programs that the HWM Committee budget had eliminated. Overall, the changes result in a small increase of $7.4 million (0.6 percent) over the HWM Committee budget. Follow the links below to MassBudget’s Children’s Budget and Jobs & Workforce Budget for detailed descriptions of specific programs.

Amendments approved by the House create two new initiatives at the University of Massachusetts (UMass). These include:

  • Efforts to promote commercialization of medical research and attract world-class medical researchers to UMass, funded at $2.0 million.
  • A center for the study of racial justice and urban affairs operated by the University of Massachusetts Amherst funded through a $250,000 earmark within the UMass Center at Springfield.

The House also proposes to increase funding for:

For full details on higher education grants and programs that received increased funding during House debate, see the table below. MassBudget makes an adjustment to the totals for the main line items of higher education campuses. The totals below subtract the tuition sent back to the state by campuses from direct appropriations because this revenue is not available for campus operations and has a similar effect as reduced state funding.


Table: Higher education line items amended by the house

During floor debate, no additional funding was added to the HWM Committee’s proposal for any other higher education line items. For these programs, MassBudget’s description of higher education in our HWM Committee Budget Monitor HERE outlines the funding proposed in the final House budget for FY 2017.

Overall, the final House budget would provide $8.1 million (0.7 percent) more funding than the Governor’s FY 2017 proposal. The overall funding levels for higher education in both proposals are similar to what is currently available in FY 2016.

Environment & Recreation

During its floor debate on the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget the House increased funding for environment and recreation programs by $4.3 million to $201.0 million. This amount is $11.8 million below the FY 2016 budget and is 33.2 percent less than the FY 2001 budget after adjusting for inflation.

Most of the increases in the House budget fund earmarks for specific environment and recreation projects located in communities around the state. For a full list of amendments that added funding for programs in this category, please see the table below.  

Some highlights of changes adopted during floor debate include:

  • Providing an additional $2.3 million for the primary account that funds state park and recreation programs for a total of $39.7 million. This increase funds $2.3 million in earmarks that the House added during floor debate for specific parks and recreation facilities. The state provides funding for state parks both through this primary account and through an account that allows the Department of Conservation and Recreation to retain up to $19.2 million in parking and admission fees it collects at state recreation facilities. Combined funding for state parks and recreation facilities in the House budget is $3.7 million below the FY 2016 current budget.
  • Providing $150,000 for climate change adaptation and preparedness which is half the amount in the current FY 2016 budget. The House Ways and Means Committee (HWM) budget included no funding for this program in its proposal.
  • Transferring up to $10.0 million dollars from surplus funds at the end of FY 2016 to the Community Preservation Trust Fund, an amount identical to the Governor’s proposal for FY 2017. Past year’s budgets, including the FY 2016 General Appropriations Act, have recommended transferring a certain portion of any surplus from the previous fiscal year into the CPA Trust Fund. This Trust Fund provides state support to communities that have adopted the Community Preservation Act (CPA). To receive state support from the CPA, cities and towns vote to add a surcharge of up to 3 percent on the local property tax to fund the development of open space, the creation and preservation of affordable housing, and the preservation of historic buildings.  

For more details on programs that did not receive increases in funding during the House debate, please see the Environment and Recreation section of MassBudget’s HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


Table: Environment and recreation line items amended by the house

MassHealth (Medicaid) & Health Reform

The House added $1.1 million to the House Ways and Means (HWM) proposal for MassHealth and Health Reform programs. The additions include $125,000 added to funding for the Executive Office for specific projects designed to improve access to health services on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket and in western Massachusetts.

The House added $1.0 million to the MassHealth Fee-for-Service line item to establish a pilot program to improve integrated health care delivery also in western Massachusetts.


Table: Masshealth and health reform line items amended by the house

The House added language to protect chiropractic benefits for MassHealth members participating in the Primary Care Clinician plan through FY 2017. The Governor’s budget proposal included language intending to limit “optional” benefits such as chiropractic services for members in the Primary Care Clinician plan starting in January 2017.

An additional language change passed by the House would restore the value of the personal needs allowance allowed for people in nursing homes. The HWM budget would have allowed that amount to drop below the current value of $72.80 per month, but a floor amendment brought it back up to $72.80.

For a description of the portions of the House proposal for MassHealth and Health Reform unchanged by amendments, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

Mental Health

During floor debate, the House added $500,000 to the original House Ways and Means (HWM) Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget proposal for mental health services (see table below.) The House added $50,000 to support a specific children’s mental health program, bringing total funding for Child and Adolescent Mental Health services to $88.1 million. This total is essentially level with the Governor’s proposal, and just above FY 2016 funding levels.

The House also added $450,000 to adult mental health services, to support several community-based mental health programs. The total for this line item is now $383.1 million, just above funding in the Governor’s budget.


Table: Mental health line items amended by the house

For a description of the HWM proposal for mental health services unchanged during the floor debate, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

Public Health

The House added $9.6 million during floor debate to the House Ways and Means (HWM) Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 public health budget (see table.) This funding includes $1.2 million in additional funding for maternal and child health services, including $1.0 million for the Early Intervention Program, which brings funding up to $28.4 million, level with the Governor’s proposal and level with FY 2016 funding. The House also restored $200,000 for the Postpartum Depression Pilot program, also bringing that funding up to the Governor’s proposal and to FY 2016 levels.


Table: Public health line items amended by the house

The House added $500,000 to funding for the Safe and Successful Youth Initiative, increasing funding from $6.0 million to $6.5 million. Even with this additional funding, the House budget total is $2.4 million less than proposed by the Governor. The House proposal, however, is now $470,000 above FY 2016 funding levels. Youth At-Risk Matching Grants also received additional funding during floor debate, bringing the total to $4.3 million. This is more than recommended by the Governor, and also more than current FY 2016 funding.

The House added funding to several line items to support additional behavioral health services, including a total of $3.5 million for substance abuse services, and $450,000 for suicide prevention services, including $400,000 for a new line item to support the suicide prevention work provided by Samaritans, Inc.

The House also added $235,000 to funding for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention and Treatment, bringing the total to $30.8 million. The Governor’s budget proposal for this line item—which the funding in the HWM budget proposal largely mirrored—shifted $23.9 million in funding for domestic violence prevention from a line item within the Dept. of Children and Families to this item, as described HERE. Our totals in the table above present the funding as proposed by the Governor and the House, and are not directly comparable to the FY 2016 funding total for this line item.

Most of the other amendments added by the House to the HWM budget proposal for public health programming fund specific community-based public health programs.

State Employee Health Insurance

During floor debate, the House reduced the amount originally proposed by House Ways and Means (HWM) to pay for health insurance premiums for state employees and for retired municipal teachers. These reductions likely reflect a new and lowered health care cost estimate from the Group Insurance Commission (see table below.) The Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget for group insurance premiums was reduced by $31.2 million. The funding for health insurance for retired teachers was cut by $2.8 million, although this will have no net impact on the state budget because this line item is entirely funded by payments from municipalities (see more detailed discussion HERE.)

Table: State employee health insujrance line items amended by the house

State Retiree Health Benefits

On the floor of the House, an amendment passed clarifying a revenue source for the costs of health benefits for future state retirees. If there is insufficient surplus available from appropriations for debt service as described in the HWM Budget Monitor HERE, the House budget proposes that the state would use General Fund revenues from the Master Tobacco Settlement to pay for these costs.

For a more complete discussion of the House proposal for State Employee Health Insurance, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

Housing

During floor debate the House added a modest $3.9 million to state affordable housing programs for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. The House budget also approved the creation of two commissions, described below, to look into strategies to help people with very low-incomes, including those who are homeless.

Among the amendments that increased funding for housing, the House approved $1.0 million for a program that provides shelter and supports to unaccompanied homeless youth up to 24 years old. This amount is $1.0 million above the HWM Committee budget, which recommended no funding for the program, but is half of the $2.0 million provided in the current fiscal year. For a full list of amendments that add funding for programs in this category, please see the table below.

During floor debate the House also adopted amendments that create two separate commissions charged with exploring strategies to improve the lives of low-income people, including those who are homeless. These commissions would:

  • Look into how the state could help to provide economic mobility and financial stability for families and individuals with very low incomes. The commission would look at data on strategies that improve housing stability and increase economic self-sufficiency.
  • Examine ways to provide nutritious and healthy meals to homeless families who are sheltered in hotels and motels because the EA family shelters are full. Because hotels and motels often do not have adequate food storage and cooking facilities, it can be a challenge for parents living in these facilities to prepare nutritious meals for themselves and their children.

The House final budget provides $446.2 million for housing which is $42.6 million less than the FY 2016 current budget and $19.2 million below the Governor’s FY 2017 proposal. As noted in our Budget Monitor on the House Ways and Means (HWM) proposal HERE, a significant portion of the state’s housing budget provides shelter and assistance to low-income families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The House budget provides $40.1 million less than the FY 2016 current budget for the Emergency Assistance (EA) program which provides shelter and services to low-income, homeless families who meet certain eligibility requirements. If this lower funding level is included in the final FY 2017 budget, it is likely that the Legislature will be required to provide supplemental funding for the program because the cost of providing shelter for those who are homeless and eligible for shelter will probably exceed the amount appropriated.   

For more details on the House Ways and Means Committee (HWM) budget that did not receive increases in funding during the House debate, please see the Housing section of MassBudget’s HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


Table: Housing line items amended by the house

Child Welfare

During floor debate, the House added just $885,000 in funding for child welfare at the Dept. of Children and Families (DCF). This additional funding would be directed to specific child welfare services programs, and would bring the funding for Services for Children and Families at DCF to $283.7 million. This total is essentially level with Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 current funding (see discussion below.)

The House also added language specifying that funding from this line item could be directed to prevent domestic violence. The Governor’s budget proposal—which the funding in the House Ways and Means (HWM) budget proposal mirrored—shifted $2.2 million in funding for domestic violence prevention from a different DCF line item to this item. As described HERE our HWM Budget Monitor adjusted the Governor’s numbers for that shift to allow more accurate comparisons to the current budget. Because the House budget does not indicate whether it includes that same shift, we present the numbers in the chart below without adjustment.


Table: Child welfare line items amended by the house

In addition to funding at DCF, the House added $20,000 for the Commission on the Status of Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.

Moreover, the House added language to the budget requesting a report to the Legislature on the operations of the Family Resource Centers funded through the Dept. of Children and Families.

For descriptions of other programs in Child Welfare unchanged by amendments, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

Elder Services

During its floor debate, the House added roughly $2 million to the House Ways and Means (HWM) proposal for Elder Services programs. Amendments included:

  • $642,000 to Elder Congregate Housing for naturally occurring retirement communities.
  • $750,000 to the Elder Nutrition Program to provide home delivered meals, making it level with the Governor’s proposal and slightly higher than FY 2016 current spending.
  • $615,000 for added services and facility construction and improvements for Council on Aging centers.

Language in the bill also would require a study to explore raising the income threshold to qualify for home care services.

To read about the budget proposals in the HWM Committee budget, read the Elder Services section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


Table: Elder services line items amended by the house

Disability Services

The state budget supports a range of programs for individuals with disabilities. These include targeted job training programs that help people participate in the workforce, as well as community-based supports that more broadly assist people with disabilities and their families. During the floor debate, the House added $100,000 for Respite Family Supports for the Developmentally Disabled. This increase would bring total funding for disability services in the House budget proposal to $1.89 billion, which is $45.1 million (2.4 percent) above the current FY 2016 budget and $4.7 million (0.2 percent) below the Governor’s proposal. Other funding for disability services in the House FY 2017 budget proposal was unchanged from the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee proposal. To read about the budget proposals in the HWM Committee budget, read the Disability Services section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


Table: Disability services line item amended by the house

Juvenile Justice

The House did not amend the budget for the Department of Youth Services (DYS) recommended by the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee. For a description of that proposal, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

The House did adopt an amendment on a juvenile justice issue, but it was in the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education budget: $100,000 for Youth Court programs in New Bedford and Fall River to support juvenile diversion programs utilizing restorative justice practices. These programs would be funded through an After-school and Out-of-school Grants line item.

Transitional Assistance

During the floor debate, the House passed two amendments increasing funding to Transitional Assistance programs, adding $12.9 million to the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee’s proposal. The amendments bring total funding for transitional assistance in the House budget proposal to $679.5 million, which is $14.3 million (2.1 percent) below the current FY 2016 budget and $7.3 million (1.1 percent) above the Governor’s proposal.

During debate, the House increased funding for:

  • The Employment Services Program by $6.9 million, bringing the total House appropriation to $11.9 million. This still leaves support for employment and training programs for TAFDC clients $1.1 million below the current FY 2016 budget and 64.8 percent below the inflation adjusted FY 2001 appropriation. Included in the amendment is a $794,000 earmark for contracts entered with the Massachusetts Office of Refugees and Immigrants. Over the last 15 years, cuts to employment and training programs have made it harder for parents to improve their skills, and get and keep jobs that allow them to support their families. For a more in-depth analysis on funding for education and job training programs, see Declines in Work Supports for Low-Income Parents.
  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) by $6.0 million, bringing the total House appropriation to $209.9 million. This increase includes a $40 rent allowance for recipients in unsubsidized housing, and a $200 clothing allowance.

Table: Transitionla assistance line items amended by the house

Other funding for Transitional Assistance programs in the House FY 2017 proposal was identical to the HWM Committee proposal and can be read about in the Transitional Assistance section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor by clicking HERE.

Other Human Services

During floor debate, the House added $1.2 million to supports for veterans’ services, including an additional $619,000 for Outreach Centers, which brings total funding to $3.7 million, $335,000 above both the Governor’s proposal and Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 current funding. The House also added $125,000 for the Train Vets to Treat Vets program, which offers both training for returning veterans who would like to become mental health professionals and counseling for homeless veterans. With this additional funding, the House budget for this program is now $250,000, level with the Governor’s proposal and with FY 2016 funding.


Table: Other human services line items amended by the house

The House also added $665,000 to the House Ways and Means (HWM) proposal for the Emergency Food Assistance Program to support several specific anti-hunger programs. This would bring the total to $17.7 million, $505,000 more than the FY 2016 current total.

For a description of other portions of the House proposal for Other Human Services unchanged by amendments, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

Economic Development

In Massachusetts, we support workforce and business development programs that aim to boost the skills of working people and stimulate economic growth. During the floor debate, the House added $16.8 million in amendments for economic development. This brings total funding for economic development to $143.3 million, which is $6.4 million (4.7 percent) above the Governor’s proposal but $9.9 million (6.5 percent) below current FY 2016 levels.

Some highlights of increases adopted during the floor debate include:

  • $700,000 to YouthWorks (formerly Summer Jobs Program for At-Risk Youth), which brings total funding to $9.7 million. This is $1.8 million (15.7 percent) below the Governor’s proposal and $2.0 million (17.1 percent) below current FY 2016 levels. The amendment also includes earmarks of $125,000 for a grant to the Union of Minority Neighborhoods, and $25,000 and $50,000 for workforce development and education programs for women and girls in East Boston and Dorchester. YouthWorks pays for the salaries of low-income and at-risk youth living in targeted communities for summer and some year-round jobs. The proposed funding decrease may cause fewer youth hires as compared to previous years.
  • $1.5 million to the Advanced Manufacturing Workforce Development Grants program for a precision manufacturing pilot program that provides training to unemployed and underemployed workers, including veterans. The final House proposal for this account is the same as the Governor’s proposal and the current FY 2016 budget.
  • $2.0 million to the Massachusetts Service Alliance for earmarks on various workforce-training programs and services, bringing total funding recommended by the House to $3.4 million. This is $2.0 million above the Governor’s proposal and $45,000 below current FY 2016 levels. The Mass. Service Alliance serves as the state commission on service and volunteerism.
  • $2.2 million to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which brings total funding to $12.2 million. This increase is $2.0 million (13.9 percent) below both the Governor’s proposal and current FY 2016 levels. The Council offers grants and services to nonprofit cultural organizations, schools, communities, and artists in Massachusetts. This amendment includes several earmarks for grants and services, such as $75,000 for the Springfield Performing Arts Development Corporation, $9,000 for a restoration grant in Stoneham, $80,000 for the Cogswell School Building in Bradford, and $25,000 for the Berkshire Carousel Project in Pittsfield.
  • $7.1 million to the Office of Travel and Tourism, a state agency dedicated to promoting Massachusetts as a travel destination, bringing total funding recommended by the House Budget to $11.5 million. This is $7.1 million above the Governor’s proposal but $2.3 million below current FY 2016 levels. Included in the amendment are 67 earmarks totaling to roughly $5.0 million. These earmarks cover an array of projects, such as promoting tourism efforts in cities and towns, public safety improvements, and construction projects.
  • $10.0 million in transfers from surplus funds, if there is a state surplus at the end of FY 2016, to the Massachusetts Life Sciences Investment Fund, an amount identical to the Governor’s proposal for FY 2017.

To read about the budget proposals in the HWM Committee budget, read the Economic Development section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor HERE.


Table: Economic development line items amended by the house

General Local Aid  

The House made no changes to the HWM proposal for General Local Aid. For a description, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

Other Local Aid

The House increased funding for the Municipal Regionalization and Efficiencies Incentive Reserve to $7.0 million, a $1.7 million increase over the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee proposal. The House proposal is still about 36 percent below current FY 2016 funding levels for this program. The House proposal for FY 2017 includes $2.8 million for the District Local Technical Assistance Fund, an $800,000 increase above the HWM Committee proposal for this program. The remaining increases above the HWM Committee proposal are for various local projects, including for local public safety improvements, roads, or bike paths.


Table: Other local aid line items amended by the house

Transportation

The House made only a few changes to the House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee budget proposal for transportation. The House increased funding for Regional Transit Authorities around the state by $1.0 million and approved a variety of earmarks for local projects totaling an additional $425,000.

The House proposes $81.0 million for the state’s 15 Regional Transit Authorities (RTAs), $1.0 million above the $80.0 million amount proposed by the HWM Committee and Governor, which was $2.0 million below the $82.0 million amount in the current FY 2016 budget. (An alternative House amendment had proposed increasing the amount to $84.1 million, but the language was not included in the final House bill.)

The House also adopted an amendment to create earmarks in and increase funding for the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund by $425,000. These earmarks would provide: $50,000 to transport children and staff to Camp Harbor View on Long Island in Boston Harbor; $50,000 for downtown public safety improvements in the town of Holliston; $200,000 for traffic improvement in the city of Worcester; $100,000 for a transportation pilot program in the city of Marlborough (without further description); and $25,000 for a transportation grant in the town of Hudson that the original amendment stated would be paid to the MetroWest Regional Transit Authority. These small increases to the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund would leave funding for the fund $2.9 million below current levels.

Other funding levels were unchanged from the HWM Committee proposal, and are discussed in MassBudget’s HWM Budget Monitor HERE. The budget line items amended during House debate appear below.


Table: Transportation line items amended by the house

Other language changes in the House budget proposal that do not affect spending levels would require the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to convene a working group to study expedited improvement of “high speed passenger rail service” between Springfield, Worcester, and Boston and to require the state’s learner’s permit exam to include at least one question on how to interact safely with cyclists and pedestrians.

Law & Public Safety

During floor debate, the House added a combined total of $11.5 million to Law & Public Safety (L&PS) accounts, spread among fourteen different line items (see table, below). The individual increases range from several tens of thousands of dollars to several million dollars per account. Most of the increases are accompanied by additional language, earmarking funds for a number of specific programs or purposes in various cities and towns throughout the Commonwealth. (The final amendment language, including all earmarks, can be found HERE.) Among the most sizeable L&PS amendments adopted by the House are the following:

  • The House increased funding for the Department of Fire Services Administration by $3.1 million to $23.9 million, dedicating $1.2 million of the additional funds to the Student Awareness of Fire Education program.
  • The House increased funding for the Department of Corrections (DOC) by $2.7 million to $571.7 million, along with earmarking funds for incarcerated mothers and for municipalities hosting DOC facilities.
  • The House increased funding for the Executive Office of Safety and Security by $1.5 million to $3.8 million, along with earmarking additional funding for a long list of public safety improvements and programs in communities throughout the Commonwealth.
  • The House increased funding for the Department of State Police Operations by $1.1 million to $286.9 million, earmarking funds for additional police patrols including patrols at several specific parks and beaches in Greater Boston.
  • The House increased funding for Shannon Grants by $1.0 million to $6.0 million. Current FY 2016 funding stands at $7.0 million, an amount identical to that proposed by the Governor in his FY 2017 budget. Shannon Grants help fund anti-gang and youth violence prevention efforts undertaken by law enforcement, community-based organizations, and government agencies in communities throughout the Commonwealth.

Other notable amendments that do not alter line item funding levels include the following:

  • The House adopted an amendment that would bring Massachusetts identification cards and licenses into compliance with requirements of the federal REAL ID program, as established by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The adopted amendment follows the language of a bill submitted last fall by Governor Baker.
    A primary element of the REAL ID program is the requirement that states verify documentation regarding the lawful residency of applicants prior to issuing REAL ID compliant licenses and identification cards. Under the House amendment, Massachusetts will continue to be able to issue state-only licenses and identification cards (i.e., licenses and ID cards that are not REAL ID compliant) and would be permitted to issue such licenses/IDs to applicants who do not provide documentation of lawful residence status. (Currently, however, Massachusetts does not issue driver’s licenses to undocumented residents.)
    Under the adopted amendment, Massachusetts will be permitted to issue REAL ID compliant licenses to non-U.S. citizens if they will be residing lawfully in Massachusetts for more than 12 months, though the expiration date of the license/ID must match the individual’s documented departure date (and cannot exceed 60 months, in any case). If no documentation of departure date is provided, the expiration date of the REAL ID compliant license/ID will be no later than 12 months from the date of issuance.
    As of October 2015, REAL ID compliant identification is required to enter many federal facilities and, starting in January of 2018, it will be required for domestic air travel. State-only IDs (i.e., licenses and ID cards that are not REAL ID compliant) will not allow holders to enter many federal facilities or fly domestically. 
  • The House adopted an amendment that would allow the Committee for Public Counsel Services to waive the cap on billable hours for private counsel working in the children and family law program, if there is limited availability of qualified counsel in that area of practice or if the use of private counsel is deemed most cost effective.
  • The House agreed to establish a special commission to examine elevator inspection safety issues.

Table: Law and public safety line items amended by the house

For more information on Law & Public Safety proposals included in the House FY 2017 budget, see the Law & Public Safety section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

Pensions

The House made no changes to the House Ways and Means (HWM) proposal regarding pension funding amounts. For information on pension funding proposals included in the House FY 2017 budget, see the Pension section of MassBudget's HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

The House did adopt two changes to the rules governing when the Commonwealth will step in and take over underperforming public employee pension systems. There are 104 different public employee pension systems in Massachusetts, covering all public employees. These systems represent an assortment of different employee memberships, including memberships organized by city, town, county, school district, or state agency. The two largest of these 104 systems –- the Massachusetts State Teacher’s Retirement System and the State Employees’ Retirement System -- are required by law to have all of their assets invested in the state-managed Pension Reserves Investment Trust Fund (PRIT). (The component of the Boston City retirement system dedicated to Boston teachers’ pensions also is required by law to invest its assets with the PRIM in the PRIT.) Roughly a third of the remaining pension systems choose to invest all of their assets with the PRIT, while another half of the systems choose to invest at least a portion of their assets with the PRIT.

The Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission (PERAC) is a state-level commission tasked with oversight of these 104 different pensions systems. Current state law requires that any system that has less than 65 percent of the assets required to fund its actuarial liabilities AND which has delivered an “average annual rate of return during the last 10 years that is at least two percentage points less than that of the PRIT Fund rate of return over the same period” will be declared by PERAC to be underperforming and must transfer ownership and control of its assets, in perpetuity, to the Massachusetts Pension Reserves Investment Management Board (PRIM) for investment in the PRIT.

The House budget would alter existing law to allow systems to underperform the PRIT by 3 percentage points (instead of 2 percentage points) before requiring they be taken over by the PRIM. Additionally, the PRIM would maintain control of the underperforming system’s assets only for 5 years -- rather than in perpetuity -- before returning control of the system’s assets to the system’s managing board.

Revenue

The House made no changes to the House Ways and Means (HWM) budget that alter the amount of revenue available for the budget. (For more information on revenue in the House budget proposal, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.) The House, however, did approve two studies related to tax issues:

  • In response to a proposed amendment to exempt Massachusetts municipalities from paying the motor fuels tax on the fuel they purchase for city/town use, the House instead approved a study on the issue. The study would be conducted by the Office of Administration and Finance (ANF) in collaboration with the Department of Revenue (DOR) and the Department of Transportation (DOT). The study is required, among other things, to examine impacts on state and local revenues and on transportation infrastructure, as well as examine distributional impacts on different income groups.
  • In response to a proposed amendment to reduce the state Sales Tax from 6.25 percent to 5 percent, the House instead approved a study on the issue. The study would be conducted by ANF in collaboration with DOR. The study is required, among other things, to examine impacts on state and local economies, changes in employment levels, and distributional impacts among different income groups.   

Non-Tax Revenue

On the floor during the budget debate, the House passed several amendments that could have an impact on non-tax revenues. Some of the changes in spending could result in slight changes to fees or other departmental revenues, and some changes in health care spending could bring in additional federal reimbursements, as approximately half of the state’s MassHealth spending, in general, gets reimbursed the federal government. Increased spending in these areas can therefore increase non-tax revenues.

Also, the House added clarifying language identifying a source of revenue to fund state retiree health insurance. See the State Employee Health Insurance section of this Budget Monitor.

For a description of the HWM proposals for Non-Tax Revenue, see the HWM Budget Monitor HERE.

Additional Line Items

The line items listed below were also amended during the FY 2017 House floor debate. These are additional items not included in the budget areas examined above.

Table: Additionla line items amended by the house