Budget includes several Senator Keenan priority amendments

For Immediate Release: June 8, 2021

Contact: Morgan Simko | morgan.simko@masenate.gov

BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate passed its Fiscal Year 2022 budget, funded at $47.7 billion, on May 27. Approved with unanimous bipartisan support, the budget makes significant investments in the Commonwealth’s recovery from the COVID pandemic, local aid for schools, seniors, first responders, libraries, the health care safety net, and critical programs for Veterans, children, and those with mental and behavioral health needs.

The Senate funded statewide Chapter 70 school aid at $5.5 billion, matching House appropriations and representing the highest level of funding to date for education. With an increase of $219.6 million over Fiscal Year 2021, this funding reflects the Legislature’s commitment to meeting the needs of students and educators, especially as they move to a return to classroom learning.

“Based on conversations with school leaders in my district,” said Senator John F. Keenan (D-Quincy), “I am aware that students, teachers and administrators need more support than ever, particularly as students return to classrooms after being home-schooled or learning remotely. It is my hope that schools in my district, and across the Commonwealth, will feel the relief that this funding is intended to bring.” The additional funding also keeps the Commonwealth on schedule to fully implement by Fiscal Year 2027 the Student Opportunity Act.

Senator Keenan noted that some school districts throughout the Commonwealth, due to enrollment changes related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including Rockland in his district, saw lower than expected Chapter 70 funding. “I worked with my colleagues and the Senate Ways and Means Committee to ensure that these districts will receive funding to reflect post-pandemic enrollments,” said Keenan, “and as a result a $40 million reserve account was included in the budget.” Overall, under the Senate budget proposal the Norfolk and Plymouth District will receive $103,225,303 in Chapter 70 school aid, and an additional $40,253,228 in unrestricted general government aid.

Beyond record levels of local and school aid, Senator Keenan worked to secure funding for other district priorities, including appropriations for fire safety equipment, roadway safety and traffic and parking improvements, infrastructure improvements, and regional first responder dispatch and incident planning and training.

“I am pleased with the funding I was able to secure for all the communities in my district to address needs that have been brought to me over the past several months by local leaders,” said Keenan.

The Senate’s budget confronts the frontline health care impacts of the pandemic and sustains support for the state’s safety net by funding MassHealth at a total of $18.98 billion, thereby providing over 2 million of the Commonwealth’s children, seniors, and low-income residents access to comprehensive health care coverage. Understanding that the pandemic has strained the health care safety net, the Senate secured over $1 billion in its budget to support vital mental and behavioral health initiatives while ensuring children and families continue to receive supports across the continuum of services provided.

In higher education, the budget allocates $571.2 million for the University of Massachusetts, $321.7 million for the fifteen community colleges, and $298.1 million for the nine state universities, and for early education services, it includes $15 million for grants for the Head Start program.

In addition to investments that support an equitable recovery and opportunity for all, the Senate’s budget addresses the increasing costs of caregiving for low-income families by converting existing tax deductions for children under 12, dependent adults and business-related dependent care expenses into refundable tax credits. Coupled with the expanded Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care tax credits under the federal American Rescue Plan Act, the Senate’s child tax credit will help to lift 85,000 families out of poverty and support low-income working parents.

In the area of housing, the budget includes substantial funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), for assistance to local housing authorities, for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), which is in addition to $350 million in federal emergency rental assistance, and for assistance for homeless individuals.

In taking a fiscally responsible approach, the Senate’s budget excludes the use of federal American Rescue Plan funds. “It is important,” said Senator Keenan, “that our budget can be sustained going forward, so we have not used one-time ARP funds, but rather will work in the coming months to develop a plan that puts those funds to their most effective and appropriate use.”

During its budget debate, the Senate adopted measures to address substance use, particularly amendments offered by Senator Keenan to address the rise of methamphetamine and other stimulants, and to extend a program that provides residents with an easy and safe way to dispose of unused drugs, such as opioids, to reduce the risk of distribution.

“For many years, I have sought to increase awareness of and increase treatment options for those addicted to substances,” said Keenan. “By studying the rapidly increasing use of methamphetamine and other stimulants in the Commonwealth, we will increase our capability to provide treatment to vulnerable individuals. Extending the drug takeback program will help to keep unused drugs out of circulation.”

Another amendment filed by Senator Keenan funds an extension of efforts that mitigate the impacts of the toxic polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which can be found in water supplies and everyday items and is linked to cancer, immune system deficiencies, low fertility, and developmental issues in children and infants. The extension adopted by the Senate allows the Department of Environmental Protections to continue a vital sampling program and offer additional rounds of treatment design grants to municipalities. “This is a pressing issue in the communities I represent,” said Keenan, “as it is statewide, so I was pleased to see this amendment adopted.”

Both the House and Senate adopted language that creates an intern pipeline program in the State House for first generation students and traditionally underserved populations. Sen. Keenan filed the amendment that the Senate adopted. “Our state government must work for everyone, and an intern pipeline program at the State House will help to bring in new talent with a diversity of ideas, skills, and lived experiences,” said Keenan.

After the passage of the Senate budget, a six-member Conference Committee of members from the Senate and House was formed to reconcile differences between the two budgets, with the goal of presenting to the Governor an agreed upon budget for Fiscal Year 2022, which begins on July 1, 2021.

If you have any questions on the Senate budget, please contact Senator John Keenan’s office at 617-722-1494 or by email at John.Keenan@masenate.gov.