In three days of debate, the Massachusetts House of Representatives took up the budget proposal offered by the Ways & Means Committee, passed a series of amendments, and finalized its own proposal for next year.
Most of the amendments adopted by the House amount to relatively small, targeted funding increases, and the sections below include examples from across the budget. One area with more significant changes is Law & Public Safety, and particularly the courts, where new amendments would reduce the cuts that had been in the Ways & Means budget. Similarly, Youth Empowerment programswhich help young people find jobs and escape from cycles of violencewould see a partial restoration of the dramatic cuts proposed by the Ways & Means budget.
Broadly speaking, the House budget still largely follows the contours of the Ways & Means proposal. That includes increased funding to make higher education more affordable, to fix and improve our transportation system and to provide aid to cities and towns.
At the same time, both budgets contain a number of meaningful cuts, including to Early Education & Care programs, which help prepare children for success in school and life. These various cuts come on top of billions of dollars of cuts & savings that have been enacted in recent yearspartly as a result of the Great Recession but also because of the income tax cuts of 1998-2002 that continue to cost the state $3 billion each year.
The sections that follow describe the most significant changes between the Ways & Means budget proposal and the final House version. For more details on the Ways & Means budget, see our earlier analysis.
Early Education & Care
During budget debate, the House adopted amendments restoring much of the funding for existing quality initiatives. Universal Pre-kindergarten and Grants to Head Start both see funding restored to FY 2013 levels. Although these quality initiatives received increases in budget debate, the $17.5 million cut to Income Eligible Child Care from FY 2013 remains. (For more information on the impact of this decrease on the Income Eligible wait list, see the FY 2014 HWM Budget.)
The Governor proposed approximately $130 million for new initiatives to increase access to early education and care and improve the quality of care received by children and families. The House budget does not provide any funding for these new initiatives. The House does provide up to $7.5 million for a one-time rate reserve payment for early education and care providers from potential FY 2013 surplus dollars.
Both new line items introduced in the HWM proposal remain. There is $150,000 for a consultant to work with a special commission investigating EEC services in order to provide recommendations for improving access to and the quality of early education and care. Floor amendments changed a few of the members of the special commission and notably moved up the date recommendations are due to the legislature from June 2014 to December 31, 2013. The Office of Compliance Management funded at $200,000 and essentially tasked with auditing EEC also remains.
For a description of all early education line items, including those proposed during the FY 2014 budget process, see the MassBudget Children's Budget.
Several K-12 education programs received small increases during House floor debate, largely bringing funding for these items in line with FY 2013 levels. These changes are shown in the table below.
Chapter 70 education aid received an increase of $5.3 million, the largest increase within K-12 education. Under the House plan, this extra funding would help further phase-in a reform planned through the FY 2007 budget that recalculates the amount of local revenue required of communities to contribute towards their foundation budgets. Specifically, for districts that are currently above their new target local contributions, the House plan would allow them to reduce their local spending by 15 percent of the amount they're above their target. Reducing required contributions often leads to greater Chapter 70 aid. Distributing extra funding this way disproportionately provides greater funding for wealthier communities, since they tend to be above their target contributions.
For more information on the 2007 reform plan, please see the MassBudget's 2006 paper Public School Funding in Massachusetts: Where We Are, What Has Changed, and Options Ahead.
Two other school reimbursement programsthe Special Education Circuit Breaker and Regional Transportationwere amended by the full House and would now receive increases above FY 2013 levels.
In total, the House appropriated an additional $5.0 million to higher education over what was proposed in the initial HWM budget. The House budget would send an additional $3.0 million to the State Scholarship Fund, the state's primary financial aid fund for students. While an increase over both FY 2013 levels and the HWM proposal, the final House proposal for scholarships would still be less than half of the Governor's proposal, which would have increased the program by $112.0 million.
A technical amendment to the HWM budget altered funding levels for state universities, several of which actually saw funding reductions compared to the HWM proposal. It appears as though these are the result of technical adjustments related to collective bargaining agreements and not the result of a substantive policy decision to reduce service levels.
Environment and Recreation
During its budget debate the House added $4.3 million in funding for environment and recreation programs. Many of the amendments adopted by the House paid for earmarks included in the amendments that provided funding for specific programs or facilities. For instance, of the $1.5 million added to the budget for state parks and recreation, the House included $1.1 million in earmarks for particular recreation programs around the state. The House also passed an amendment that restored the earmark in the Toxic Use Reduction Act account for the Toxic Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMass Lowell. This earmark for TURI is in the FY 2013 current budget.
Overall the House budget increases funding for environment and recreation programs by $7.2 million above the FY 2013 current budget. Even with this increase, the House budget is 22 percent below the amount allocated for these activities before the fiscal crisis hit, after adjusting for inflation.
Economic Development programs are designed to promote economic growth in Massachusetts through training a better workforce, stimulating new economic activity, and attracting out-of-state tourism and investment. The House added $19.8 million to the initial HWM proposal for economic development programs, including $7.3 million to the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. Programs that are designed to promote Massachusetts tourism and cultural programs, such as the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Local Tourist Councils Financial Assistance Fund also saw significant increases over the HWM proposal. Much of the funding increases are earmarked to specific programs and events throughout the state. It is not, necessarily, discretionary spending for the agencies.
MassHealth & Health Reform
Together MassHealth, the state's Medicaid program, and the Commonwealth Care program, provide health coverage for about 1.5 million Massachusetts residents, including more than one in three children in the state. In FY 2014 these programs will be significantly restructured due to implementation of the federal health reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), starting in January 2014. While the number of MassHealth enrollees is expected to increase due to shifts of people from other subsidized health coverage and expanded eligibility criteria, ACA implementation is expected to benefit the state, which will receive a higher level of federal reimbursement for some current enrollees and will realize savings as some Commonwealth Care members move to Qualified Health Plans that are directly subsidized by the federal government.
The initial HWM budget proposed total spending for MassHealth and other health reform activities of about $13.3 billion, $266.5 million lower than the funding level proposed by the Governor in his H1 budget. Nearly all of this gap$253.7was the result of the HWM budget's lower levels of funding for MassHealth and Commonwealth Care programs and administrative costs. Amendments adopted during House budget debate added almost $46 million to MassHealth appropriations, but House funding for the program remains about $208.0 million lower than what the Governor proposed (since roughly half of MassHealth spending is reimbursed by the federal government, the savings to the state would be about $104.0 million).
The difference in funding for MassHealth between the two budgets is striking, and reflects the tighter revenue constraints under which the House budget was constructed. The availability of additional revenue in the H1 budget allowed the Governor to re-invest some of the new federal revenue the state will receive under the ACA back into health programs, including restoration of dental coverage for adults and rate increases for providers who have seen cuts in recent years. The House includes only a portion of these investments and cuts funding for a number of line items below the maintenance level recommended by the Governorcuts that are likely to have real consequences for MassHealth enrollees and providers.
The following changes to the HWM budget proposal were made during debate:
- The House adopted language that would set aside $17.2 million of any FY 2013 year-end surplus for partial restoration of dental benefits (mainly fillings), starting in January, 2014. In contrast, the Governor's H1 budget allocated $72.1 million for full restoration of dental benefits, also starting in January, 2014.
- Legislators added language earmarking a total of $15.0 million in rate increases for hospitals that serve high-risk children, and increased the appropriation for the line item (4000-0700) to fully fund the earmarks.
- The House increased the managed care line item (4000-0500) by $1.0 million, and added language earmarking this amount for costs related to behavioral health services.
- The final budget includes the restoration of $30.7 million for a supplemental rate increase for nursing homes that was included in the FY 2013 budget (this amount was later cut by $15.1 million when 9C cuts were implemented in December, and the Governor proposed to reduce it further).
- The House adopted an amendment shifting a new Bureau of Program Integrity created in the HWM budget from MassHealth to the Inspector General's Office, along with the $350,000 appropriation associated with it
As noted above, funding for MassHealth in the final House budget remains about $208.0 million below the amount proposed by the Governor. A portion of that overall gap can be explained by the following differences between the two budgets:
- The House does not fully restore dental coverage, and it makes funding for a partial restoration contingent on availability of a year-end FY 2013 surplus, rather than appropriating funds in a MassHealth line item.
- The House eliminates $11.7 million in funding, proposed in the Governor's H1 budget, that would allow MassHealth to maintain coverage for about 3,400 legal immigrants who will not be eligible for coverage under the ACA, and to extend MassHealth coverage to about 900 disabled adults by extending new ACA rules for calculating income eligibility to cover people with disabilities.
- It appears that the House does not follow the Governor in allocating $10.0 million for primary care provider rate increases.
- The House budget proposes to tap an off-budget trust fund (the Healthcare Payment Reform Trust Fund) to pay for some costs that were included in H1 line items. This fund, created in the legislation that legalized casinos in Massachusetts, will receive revenue from casino licensing fees, as well as a one-time hospital assessment authorized in last year's health payment reform legislation. The Governor's H1 budget relied on $20.0 million from this fund to pay for costs related to the adoption of alternative payment methodologies; the House budget uses $32.3 million for those costs as well as some additional expenditures (in both cases federal reimbursement funds account for about half the spending
After taking these differences into account, there is still a sizable gapmore than $100 million between the funding levels proposed by the Governor and the House. While some of this difference may result from different assumptions about enrollment growth, the state's ability to control health cost growth, and the state's ability to employ cash management strategies that shift costs into subsequent years, administration budget writers indicate that it will be difficultif not impossiblefor MassHealth to implement this lower level of spending without affecting either rates for providers or services for low-income patients.
During budget debate House legislators adopted amendments that increased funding for the Department of Public Health (DPH) by $13.7 million over the amount originally proposed in the HWM budget, bringing overall FY 2014 funding for public health programs (including a youth violence program that is located in the Office of Health and Human Services), to $545.0 million. Amendments added during debate filled about half the gap between the amount initially proposed for DPH programs in the HWM budget and the amount proposed in the Governor's H1 budget, but House funding for DPH programs remains about $14.0 million lower than the Governor's proposed level. After adjusting for a $14.0 million retained revenue account for the State Office of Pharmacy Services (SOPS) that was previously off-budget (also included in the Governor's budget), the final House appropriation for public health programs represents an increase of about $10.0 million, or 1.9 percent, compared to FY 2013. Between FY 2001 and FY 2013, funding for public health dropped by nearly 25 percent, after adjusting for inflation.
Amendments adopted include the following (for a full list see the chart below):
- The House created a new Post-partum Depression Pilot program, and provided $200,000 for it.
- The House added $1.0 million for Early Intervention programs during debate, restoring funding to the $26.2 million level that the Governor proposed. This amount represents a decrease compared to FY 2013 spending, a difference that is largely due to the end of a one-time salary bonus for direct care workers in FY 2013.
- The House added funding for the HIV/AIDS Prevention, Treatment and Services; Family Planning; and Disease Prevention line items, bringing proposed appropriations for these programs in line with what the Governor proposed in his H1 budget. In the first two cases the proposed appropriation represents level fundingor a slight cut, after adjusting for inflationcompared to FY 2013, while funding for Disease Prevention programs represents a small decrease compared to FY 2013.
- The House restored $4.5 million of the $5.5 million total cut to three substance abuse programs (Step-Down Services, Secure Treatment Facilities, and Family Intervention) that was included in the HWM budget.
- The House also restored funding for two youth violence prevention programs cut in the initial HWM budget (Violence Prevention Grants and Youth-at-Risk Matching Grants). Together, the proposed appropriations for these programs represent a slight increase in funding compared to FY 2013. The House did not restore any funding for a third youth violence program, Safe and Successful Youth, which the HWM budget eliminated. This program received $4.0 million in FY 2013, and the Governor proposed an increase to $10.0 million in his H1 budget for FY 2014.
Youth Empowerment programs, which help disadvantaged and at-risk youth transition into adulthood, received a combined $11.3 million increase during the House amendment process. YouthWorks (officially the Summer Jobs Program for At-Risk Youth) would receive an increase of $3.0 million above the HWM proposal, the largest among youth empowerment programs. While $5.0 million is only half of the funding that the Governor proposed for FY 2014, it represents a substantial increase over the $2.0 million HWM proposal. Other programs, including Youth-At-Risk Matching Grants and Youth Violence Prevention Grants, would be restored to FY 2013 levels.
Human Services programs and services form a crucial part of the Commonwealth's "safety net" for the state's most vulnerable residents. Programs provide support for our youngest and oldest residents, for families and for those living alone. The services help provide families and individuals with access to food, provide support for individuals with disabilities, care for our children and youth in foster care, and offer many other services that provide stability and support to the residents of Massachusetts. One amendment adopted by the House during floor debate would provide a one-time rate reserve payment of up to $7.5 million in potential FY 2013 surplus dollars to the human service workers who provide these services.
Children, Youth & Families
During budget debate, the House adopted amendments providing increases to 3 line items for children, youth and families. The Transitional Employment Program run by ROCA saw its funding restored to FY 2013 levels. This program is a retained revenue account so funding is determined by fees paid to Roca by businesses who hire youth in ROCA's programs. Services for Children and Families and Support Services for People at Risk of Domestic Violence receive small increases with a few new earmarks included.
A $150,000 earmark for The Massachusetts Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Commission was added during floor debate. This commission was introduced in the FY 2013 budget. Funding, which is included in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services line item (4000-0300) would be used to determine the amount of need that exists and how to deliver services to homeless youth under the age of 24 in urban, suburban, and rural areas.
During budget debate, the House adopted amendments providing small increases to four line items resulting in an extra $1.4 million for disability services. Head Injury Treatment Services receives $12.2 million, a $1.0 million increase over the HWM proposal and FY 2013 spending, but slightly below the Governor's proposal.
An amendment promoting the growth of self-directed services was also adopted during floor debate. Individuals eligible to receive services provided by the Department of Developmental Disabilities (DDS) direct the care they will receive with help and information provided by the department, providers, and other professionals.
During budget debate, the House adopted amendments providing small increases to four line items resulting in an extra $2.9 million for elder services. Grants to Councils on Aging funded at $10.5 million received a 14 percent increase over the HWM proposal, the Governor's proposal and FY 2013 spending.
Two special commissions were adopted in floor debate. The Elder Protective Services Commission, first introduced in the FY 2013 budget is updated to try and increase awareness of elder abuse. A new commission would study Elder Economic Security and make recommendations that would help older residents to remain in their communities.
During budget debate, the House adopted amendments providing small increases to a handful of line items. The Employment Services Program receives a more significant increase to $6.5 million, an increase of 31 percent over the HWM proposal, but still 12 percent below the Governor's proposal and 8 percent below FY 2013. This program provides TAFDC recipients with education, occupational skills and the employment support services needed to acquire and retain jobs. It would remain 79 percent below pre-recession levels even after the House increase.
The final House budget also adds in a $40 rent allowance eliminated by the HWM proposal for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) recipients in unsubsidized housing. This along with the $125 clothing allowance included in the HWM budget proposal provides parents with a much needed supplement to help clothe and house their families.
During floor debate, two amendments were offered that would significantly affect both recipients of assistance and administrators. These amendments, which the house voted to subject to further study, included provisions which would:
- Require photo identification on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards for eligible users over the age of 18
- Fingerprint recipients of public assistance
- Terminate benefits after 3 months if a social security number is not provided
Other Human Services
During budget debate, the House adopted amendments providing small increases for veterans. Multiple earmarks for specific veteran's projects were added during debate to the Veterans' Services Administration line item. Train Vets to Treat Vets, eliminated by the HWM proposal receives funding level with both the Governor and FY 2013 spending at $125,000.
A special commission on LGBT aging was adopted. This commission would study the health, housing, financial and long term needs of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender adults and make recommendations to improve access to benefits.
During its floor debate on the housing budget the House added $5.7 million in funding. The two largest amendments passed by the House restored funding that the HWM budget had cut below the FY 2013 current including:
- $2.5 million more for homeless individual's assistance account for a total of $40.5 million which is $100,000 more than the FY 2013 current budget
- $2.1 million more for public housing authorities to $64.5 million which is $100,000 more than the FY 2013 current budget
The final House budget remains significantly lower than the FY 2013 current budget because the House recommends cutting two programs that serve certain low-income, homeless families. The final House budget cuts funding for the Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter program by $29.2 million, and the HomeBASE housing assistance program by $29.9 million. It is important to note that in the past several years the initial fiscal year budgets have underfunded EA and HomeBASE requiring the Legislature to provide supplemental funding in order to meet demand. For a full description of these programs and who they serve please see MassBudget's Children's Budget section on Homelessness Assistance.
LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY
The House adopted amendments adding $22.7 million to the HWM total for Law & Public Safety accounts (see table of amended line items, below). Roughly half of the increase goes to the courts, including additional funding for each of the seven trial courts, the appeals court, the Office of the Chief Justice of Administration, and an increase in trial court justices' salaries. The remaining balance of the $22.7 million goes to a variety of accounts, from the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation to the Shannon Grants program, the Department of Fire Services Administration and several state and municipal police accounts. Overall, for nearly all of the amended line items the House FY14 budget now provides modest increases over current FY 13 funding levels. In most cases, the amendments also bring House appropriations for these line items into closer alignment with amounts proposed by the Governor.
Among the more notable changes made to the HWM budget are the following:
- A $6.0 million increase for the Chief Justice for Administration and Management (CJAM). The CJAM manages the seven trial courts and their employees, and oversees the Department of Probation and the Office of the Jury Commissioner.
- A $2.6 million increase for trial court justices' salaries.
- A $2.0 million increase for the Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation (MLAC). MLAC provides legal assistance (including information, advice and representation) to low-income people with serious, non-criminal legal problems.
- A $2.5 million increase for the Shannon Grant program which aims to prevent youth violence and gang activity through a multi-disciplinary approach, including outreach to at-risk youth.
- A $2.3 million increase for the Department of Fire Services Administration
The details of Law & Public Safety line-items amended on the floor can be found in the table below.